10 Foods Your Child Must Have Every Day
Your child’s diet has a huge impact on his health and ability to fight diseases. Depending on the age of the child, we look at foods that are ideal to give for each age group.
By Priya Kathpal • 13 min read
Roshini, a mother to two children, a boy and a girl, spared no effort in ensuring that she provided her children with a nutritious and well-balanced diet. However, she was distressed by the fact that while her eight-year-old son used to relish the food she prepared, her one-year-old daughter often fell ill. She couldn’t quite understand the reasons that made her daughter fall sick with such alarming frequency.
It was a visit to the family doctor which helped unravel the mystery behind her daughter health concerns. The doctor explained to her that certain foods work best for specific age groups. Most of the time, the food that a primary schooler consumes is not the best choice for an infant, whose digestive system is still developing.
Armed with this knowledge, Roshini began preparing a different diet for her daughter and, in due course, the results started to show.
If you also have children who are separated by a few years, don’t make the mistake that Roshini did. Remember, there is a specific set of food items that children of each age group should consume.
This article looks at 10 food items that infants, preschoolers, primary schoolers and preteens must have to lead a healthy life.
10 foods an infant must have:
Up to the age of six months, the best food for an infant is mother's milk. Some of the foods discussed below are those that infants have when they are introduced to solids. The list also has a combination of foods that both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can have.
- Breastmilk: It is the complete food for infants and their primary source of nutrition till the age of 1 year. Complement breastmilk with good choices of solids to achieve a perfect balance of nutrients. During the 6 months to 1-year period, solid foods are necessary for the infant to help her explore taste and texture. Offer the baby various foods and continue to do so till the baby is comfortable with what he eats. If he shows disinterest, do not try to force feed. Let your baby decide the quantity of food.
- Cereals: Rice, broken wheat and semolina are some examples of cereals that are easy to digest sources of much-needed energy. They also make great combinations with other food items.
- Sweet potatoes: Are rich in beta-carotene which provides Vitamin A to the body. This is crucial for healthy vision, skin and fighting infections in your infant. Also, preparations made from sweet potatoes have a baby-friendly texture.
- Yogurt: Plain yogurt is a great source of calcium, phosphorous and proteins for infants, which are important for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Also, the good bacteria in yogurt helps keep a baby's gut healthy.
- Chicken: Contains iron, one of the most important nutrients that babies are found to be deficient in. It also contains Vitamin B6 that helps release energy. Ideally, boiled chicken shredded into small pieces can be given to infants.
For those who are vegetarians, chicken can always be substituted with equally nutritious sources like tofu, mushrooms, eggplant, lentils, etc.
- Avocados: Mild in taste, buttery in nature and filled with healthy fats, avocados are ideal for the development of the brain. They also help infants to gain weight.
- Bananas: Rich in carbohydrate and fibre, bananas are easy to carry and convenient food for every infant. It keeps the baby full for a longer time too.
- Nuts and dry fruits: These are concentrated sources of energy, being full of minerals and natural sweeteners. They also contain healthy fats.
- Prunes: Babies often suffer from constipation when transitioning to solids. Prunes are a natural remedy for constipation and, as a bonus, provide other nutrients as well.
- Eggs: Rich in proteins, fat-soluble vitamins, choline and B12, eggs are important for brain health. They are perfect infant food. However, it is advisable to conduct an allergy test on your baby when you offer her egg for the first time. If there is a history of egg allergy in your family, you can delay introducing eggs.
10 foods a preschooler must have:
At this stage, the food items you give your child should be categorised keeping in mind the nutrients they provide.
- Oats: Preschoolers are full of energy and a diet rich in nutrients should complement this. Oats provide the much-needed slow-digesting carbohydrates and fibre. Around 30 g of oats a day is ideal.
- Fruits: They are a great source of vitamins, especially the yellow-orange ones that give a good dose of Vitamin C and natural sugars, which are a must to keep the immunity bar up. Two fruits per day should be your preschooler's target.
- Milk and dairy products: Rich in protein, Calcium and Vitamin A, a serving of 400 ml per day in the form of milk/yogurt/cottage cheese or cheese would be enough.
- Fish: Salmon and other local varieties are great sources of healthy fats ideal for brain development. Just make sure to pick ones that are low in mercury. A serving of 50 g per day is enough for your preschooler.
- Lentils and beans: These are rich in fibre and protein, and consuming around 20 g every day in the form of sprouts would be great for the health the digestive system of your preschooler.
- Greens: Green vegetables are full of folate and antioxidants. Try and pack them in sandwiches or wraps to make them more appealing to preschoolers.
- Nuts and seeds: They boost the health of the nervous system by providing essential fats and are great to carry as a snack. Around half a handful of nuts is enough for a day.
- Water: Most kids do not end up having as much water as their body needs. So, even mild dehydration can cause major problems. Consuming 750 ml per day of various fluids should be the benchmark.
- Broccoli: A perfect food for eye health, broccoli can also reduce the cell damage in your preschooler body. Try to include one serving per day in your preschooler's diet.
- Tofu: It is rich in calcium, iron, B vitamins and protein. What more could you ask for in a humble food like tofu? One serving every few days is enough.
10 foods a primary schooler must have:
- Grains: Wheat, rice, pulses, etc., should be consumed daily by primary schoolers to get the constant supply of energy. Three servings daily should be enough.
- Fruits and vegetables: These will take care of the vitamins and fibre requirements as well as build immunity, and help fight infections and recover faster from sickness. Two to three servings a day is essential.
- Meat and meat products: Iron, protein and B vitamins are essential during the growing years which is taken care of by chicken, fish and egg. They offer variety and are loved by most children, who require 1 serving a day.
Vegetarians can have products like tofu, mushroom, jackfruit and eggplant which contain protein, iron and vitamins.
- Milk and dairy products: Products like milk, cheese, paneer, etc., offer the ideal combination of calcium and phosphorous for healthy bones. A primary schooler should consume two servings per day.
- Water: A primary schooler should consume enough water to keep him hydrated through the day. About 1.5 l of water is necessary for this purpose.
- Raw salads or veggies: To maintain the fibre levels and a healthy gut, around 2 servings of raw vegetables are must for active, growing primary schoolers.
- Smoothies: These are a great way to provide multiple nutrients in at one go. One can add nuts and seeds to provide a dose of healthy fats. A medium glass every day, especially during breakfast, is enough.
- Cheese: Children love cheese. Stock a low salt variety for kids as it’s a great source of calcium, fats and easy to snack on. One serving a day should be the target.
- Whole grain pasta: Are rich in fibre and can be combined with meats and vegetables for a perfect meal anytime. Try to go for one serving.
- Sweet potatoes: Are simple and easy to cook. They contain beta-carotene which will work as Vitamin A in the body. This is crucial for healthy vision, skin and fighting infections. One to two servings a day is necessary.
10 foods a preteen and teen must have:
- Brown rice: Is a great alternative to white rice and much healthier. Rich in fibre and B vitamins, it releases energy slowly. A preteen should have two servings a day.
- Whole grain breads: Are ideal for a preteen as well as a teen, as they are rich in nutrients and fibre. A 1 serving daily is ideal for your preteen and teen.
- Hummus: Besides the protein and fibre content, it is also a great source of zinc and manganese, which are essential for growing children. Serving half a cup a day is essential.
- Low-fat milk and yogurt: At this stage, children don’t need any extra fat from foods. So, a low-fat version is much healthier. This will take care of the high calcium needs at this age. Two servings a day is enough.
- Fresh salads (vegetables and fruits): Fresh salads will not only curb the hunger pangs of a preteen but they are healthy as well. Try to go for three to four servings a day.
- Eggs: Two eggs every day for your preteen and teen will take care of almost half of the protein requirements along with all the other nutrients present.
- Tomatoes: Cooked tomatoes are a great source of lycopene which helps reduce cell damage and improves the health of the skin. One to two servings of tomatoes is necessary per day for preteens and teens.
- Lean meats: For preteens, the iron requirements are not met easily, especially for girls. Including healthy meats like chicken can help achieve this. For vegetarians, green peas, lentils, cottage cheese and greek yogurt can provide the required protein and iron.
- Flaxseeds: Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and fibre, flaxseeds are perfect to improve overall health. One teaspoon will take care of the daily needs of your preteen and teen.
- Cashews and walnuts: A handful of cashews and nuts every day will provide the necessary minerals and essential fats to your preteen and teen.
Are you ready to introduce your little one to the goodness of dried fruits and nuts? While some may debate over the sugar content of dried fruits like figs, raisins and apricots, there is no denying their nutritional value. So, what exactly is the truth? Read through the below article to know more.
Food is one of the most important contributors to your child’s overall health and development, apart from physical exercise.
Remember, children have different nutritional requirements at different ages and a diet prepared from expensive food items may not meet your child’s nutritional requirements.
Therefore, the knowledge of age-specific food items and the quantity to be served to a child is important.
About the author:
Written by Priya Kathpal on 17 October 2017.
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