Childhood is a period of rapid growth and development, and children’s nutritional needs must be met through their diet.
A child needs a balanced diet for his/her healthy growth and development. A nutritionally balanced diet is one that provides all the essential nutrients in the required amounts and appropriate proportions. The nutrient requirements vary with age, gender and level of physical activity. Dietary intakes lower than the requirements may lead to under-nutrition, and higher dietary intakes over a period of time may result in your child being overweight/obese.
Understanding The Nutrients There are two types of nutrients required by growing children-
Macronutrients (required in large quantities; e.g. carbohydrates, proteins and fats)
Carbohydrates & fats are present in energy-rich foods.
Proteins are present in body building foods.
Micronutrients (required in small quantities; e.g. vitamins and minerals)
Vitamins and minerals are present in protective or immunity-building foods.
Nutrients are primarily obtained through food, and children’s daily diet should consist of a variety of foods belonging to different food groups as shown in the Food Guide Pyramid.
Cereals and pulses should be consumed adequately, fruits and vegetables, liberally. Meats, fish, poultry, milk and milk products and fats and oils should be consumed moderately, whereas sugar, jaggery and fried and processed foods should be consumed sparingly.
How much to consume?
The table gives age-appropriate portions/amounts of foods to be consumed by children from a variety of foods, as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Indians 2010.
In addition to a balanced diet, regular physical activity needs to be a part of children’s routine for them to remain healthy and active.
Water: the hidden nutrient Water is very important for growing children. A well hydrated child will be able to grow well, be active and perform well. Sweet drinks such as sports drinks and soft drinks introduce too much sugar in your child’s diet. It is important that we do not encourage high intake of such sugary drinks in our children’s nutrition. Drinking too much sweet drinks can also contribute to weight gain and obesity. If children start consuming these drinks early, it can also become a difficult habit to get rid of.