Could you comment on the fact that many parents are feeding their very young children diet cold drinks with NutraSweet? What effect will this have on the development of these children? I am concerned because they do not seem to be getting enough water and healthy foods and beverages.
Children do not need diet beverages (sugar-free) or other sugar-free foods unless the child has diabetes. At the present, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has no concern with NutraSweet usage by children. I am concerned though about children who involuntarily share their parent’s low-calorie diet and parent’s preoccupation with weight control.
Children at least through age 10 need sufficient calories and protein for normal growth and brain development. Growth can be grossly measured by height and weight. There are published tables for comparison. If a child’s height is in the 100th percentile, a weight in the 100th percentile (range of 75% to 125% is appropriate) is OK. If a child’s height or weight is less than the 25th percentile, he/she should be seen by a doctor to determine why. Smallness may be genetic, but it can also be caused by an insufficient food. Other vitamins and minerals are important and food is the best source of these nutrients.
When calories are restricted, so are these vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and development. If calories or protein are restricted, children may not achieve their genetically determined height. If protein is severely restricted early in life, brain development may be permanently stunted.
Infants and very young children cannot always say when they are thirsty or hungry. A good rule of thumb is for adults to offer children water when adults drink liquids. Another rule of thumb is to look at the color of urine. During the day, it should be light yellow and odorless.
It is usually adults that determine what foods are purchased at the store and that in turn determines what young children eat. The focus should not be that children are just small adults. Their nutritional needs are usually greater, especially for calories per pound of body weight, than adults need.