Why picky eating can be dangerous for eye health + tips to ensure that your child is getting all the nutrition they need
Diet – more than just getting your greens in
Getting kids who love junk food to eat their fruits and veggies can be a challenging, sometimes even impossible, endeavour. Unfortunately, it is a necessary one because, as all parents know, a healthy and well-balanced diet is crucial for their children’s wellbeing. Diet affects a whole host of different bodily functions – from brain development, concentration and energy levels to body composition and organ function, among others.
However, apart from the link between eating carrots and having good night vision, most parents likely haven’t given much thought to the importance of a balanced diet for the healthy development of their children’s eyes. Did you know that the food your child eats can affect how well they see?
The link between diet and eye health
Myopia is probably the most well-known eye problem in Singapore, so you are probably wondering what the link between myopia and diet is. This is a slightly tricky question to answer because current research has produced results on both sides of the fence – some papers show that there may be a link between diet and myopia, while others have results that disprove of this hypothesis. As it stands, more research is needed to definitively establish if there is indeed a strong link between diet and myopia.
While the verdict is still out on the exact nature of the relationship between diet and myopia, bad eating habits have been more strongly linked to various other eye conditions, some of which may have serious long-term consequences for health and well-being. For example, compelling links between diet and cataract formation, and diet and age-related macular degeneration have been discovered.
In extreme cases, a poor diet can even cause blindness. In the UK, an otherwise healthy teenage boy described as a ‘fussy eater’ developed vision symptoms due to his poor diet. The vision symptoms progressed to vision loss after 2 years, advanced to nutritional optic neuropathy (inflammation of the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain), which eventually led to irreversible blindness. All of this was because his diet consisted of very nutrition-poor foods, like fries, potato chips, white bread, processed ham and sausages, which left him with vitamin deficiencies.
Tips for parents on sneaking healthy foods into your kids’ diets
Cases like that of the British boy are extremely rare, especially in developed countries. For those who have fussy eaters in the family, do not worry, picky eating in children is common. Most times, it is no cause for worry, and children usually grow out of it as they grow older.
However, if you are worried that your child may not be getting all the nutrients they need for good eye health because of pickiness, here are three tips for you:
Tiny chefs – get the kids involved in food preparation
Cooking can be a fun family activity, and seeing how a dish is prepared and playing a part in its creation may be just the thing kids need to get over any aversion they have to a dish. Bring them along to the supermarket (just be sure to stay clear of the junk food aisle!), let them pick out any fresh food they find interesting and create the dish with them.
Sneak in vegetables into foods your child already likes!
Kids globally seem to hold a grudge against broccoli, but it actually is more friend than foe – it is full of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which act as protective pigments in the back of our eyes.
If your little one loves mac and cheese (let’s be real, who doesn’t?), chop broccoli into tiny florets and stir them in. For the baking whizzes, it is easy to slip it into baked goods like muffins and your kids will be none the wiser. There are many ways of disguising veggies into their favourite dishes, get creative!
Change the texture of the food
Like the case study of the British boy, some kids don’t have any issue with the taste of a vegetable but instead may find the texture off-putting.
Carrots are rich in Vitamin A, which plays an essential role in vision by helping the retina to absorb light. You can incorporate carrots into your child’s diet by changing up the texture of by juicing it or grating it into ribbons.