6 Essential Nutrients Your Preschooler Needs

What should your child eat to be healthy? How can you give her a balanced diet? This article tells you what to include in your child's plate so that she grows up into a healthy adult.

By Hima Ann Isaac

6 Essential Nutrients Your Preschooler Needs

The first thing a new mother is taught when she gives birth to her child is to hold her newborn close to her chest and feed her with the colostrum (the first milk produced during pregnancy), which is a perfect mixture of all the required nutrients. Babies who miss out on the colostrum are prone to fall sick often. Thus, a child’s health is associated with her diet right from birth. Many parents believe that it is alright for a child to eat anything she wants to but the truth is that a child’s health in future depends on what she eats during the first 5 years of life. Yes, your child can eat anything she wants, but BALANCE is the key.

For your child to have a healthy life free from disease, you must lay the strong foundation of nutrients in her diet from an early age.

Let us look at some of the essential nutrients and foods to be included in your child’s diet to meet the nutritional requirements.

Calcium

The key nutrient in maintaining strong and healthy bones and teeth. If calcium is not taken in adequate amounts, your child will be unable to attain her required peak bone mass – the maximum amount of bones a person has in life. This will, in turn, result in frequent episodes of falls and fractures and can even lead to osteoporosis.

Sources:

Ragi, black amaranth seeds, whole Bengal gram, whole green gram, whole black gram, horsegram and green leafy vegetables such as agathi leaves, fenugreek leaves, amaranth leaves, colocasia leaves, knol khol leaves, parsley and ponnanganni. Milk, milk products and sesame are very good sources.

Iron

It is a very important nutrient required for the formation of haemoglobin, the component which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Adequate intake of this nutrient will help `boost your child’s concentration, working capacity and overall health.

Sources: 

Garden cress seeds, turmeric powder, chicken liver and goat spleen are good sources. Among green leafy vegetables, amaranth leaves are fairly good sources. However, it is important to combine iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods like lemon and gooseberry to ensure maximum absorption of iron

Vitamins

They are mainly of two types: Fat-soluble, namely vitamins A, D, E and K and water-soluble, namely B complex vitamins and vitamin C. Right from performing essential functions like maintaining good eyesight to keeping your child’s skin, bones and gut intact, these vitamins ensure that your child is completely safe from diseases.

Sources:

Almost all fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins. Vitamin E is present in nuts and vegetable oils. Milk and milk products are considered to be good sources of vitamin B12.

Potassium

This is one of the important minerals for your child’s growth. It helps in normal functioning of the heart. The WHO recommends an increased intake of potassium from foods like spinach, sweet potato and fat-free yogurt to control blood pressure in children.

Sources: 

Potassium is present in abundance in all foods, the best sources being legumes and pulses.

Magnesium

Do ensure that you have enough of this mineral in your child’s diet as it aids in proper development of the bones, maintenance of normal heart rhythm, and appropriate functioning of the nervous system.

Source:

Magnesium is widely present in all foods. The rich sources include nuts like almonds, cashew nuts, garden cress seeds, gingelly seeds; green leafy vegetables like amaranth leaves; cereals like ragi, varagu; and legumes like Bengal gram, red gram, rajma, moth beans, green gram and black gram.

Zinc

Zinc plays a critical role in the growth and development of a child. The deficiency of zinc restricts growth and decreases the body’s resistance to infections, says a WHO study by Ian Darnton Hill. 

Sources:  

Cereals like ragi, whole wheat, all pulses, condiments and spices like oregano, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds contain zinc. Nuts like garden cress seeds, gingelly seeds, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and milk products like paneer are good sources of zinc.

Maintaining optimum health is a challenge today, especially with the prevalence of numerous diseases. As a parent, you must learn to cope with this challenge by including each of the above nutrients in your child’s diet and prepare her well for a bright tomorrow.

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