Healthy Diet Plan For Your Child (1-5 Years)

All new parents are concerned about what and how much food to feed their child as they start reducing their dependence on breast milk and eating more solid foods. Read on to know more.

By Neha Pandit Tembe

Healthy Diet Plan For Your Child (1-5 Years)

Nutrition and food habits in the formative years can have a significant impact on health as the child grows. General food habits will be formed in these years and thus how, what and how much we feed our kids becomes utmost importance. From the second year onwards, though the child does not grow as rapidly as in the first year, poor nutrition may result in poor motor, physical and cognitive development, and issues like constipation, iron deficiency anaemia, iodine deficiency, etc.

The ICMR suggests food group-wise daily portions as per age. This can be a guideline for all parents; though individual discretion is a must.

1. Cereals and millets

They provide energy, fibre (if non-refined) and B complex vitamins.

Include as per age: All grains and millets like wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, ragi, oats, quinoa and their products like rawa, poha, daliya etc .

Limit: Wheat breads.

Avoid: white breads, pav, instant noodles, sugar-laden breakfast cereals and biscuits – just anything made with maida (refined flour).

Want to know the calorie requirement of your girl? Check out this article.


2. Pulses, meat, fish, eggs and other non-dairy sources of protein

Provides your child with protein and minerals such as iron and zinc. Vegetarian proteins also contain fibre, B vitamins. Eggs are a convenient and versatile alternative to meat. Any one from the above is a must daily.

Include as per age: Well cooked eggs, beans, pulses, chicken, lamb, in different forms. Oily fish (not fried) like tuna, salmon, mackerel can be great 1-2 times a week.

Limit: may be a good idea to limit soyabeans until others beans are introduced and accepted.

Avoid: Raw/undercooked meat/ beans/ eggs and processed meats or chicken products like nuggets, patties etc (high sodium, preservatives, fats).

3. Milk and dairy foods

As dependence on breast milk reduces, it’s important to provide milk and its products from other sources as they contain bio available calcium, Vit A, D, proteins and healthy fats.

Include as per age: Buffalo’s/ Cow’s Milk, curd, homemade paneer, and preparations made with these.

Limit: ready to eat yoghurts, processed cheese, cream.

Avoid: skimmed milk/ zero fat milk, sugar laden and artificial flavoured milk drinks and yoghurts.

How may calories must your boy eat? Read this article to find out.


4. Fruits and vegetables

Overall all fruits & vegetables provide vitamins & minerals along with fibre but certain vegetables contain certain nutrients, eg dark green, leafy veg are a good source of iron, calcium; bananas and oranges are a good source of potassium; some root vegetables are a good source of selenium etc. Thus a variety is a must. Fruits are preferred raw with skins but occasionally cooked are okay.

a. Roots and tubers, green leafy vegetables and other vegetables

Include as per age: All vegetables, especially seasonal ones, must be added to your child’s diet as curry, sautéed vegetable, in wraps, sandwiches, with rice, as salad sticks, soups and any other way your family has traditionally practised.

Limit: homemade french fries(oven/grill), frozen/ tinned veggies.

Avoid: Potato chips and vegetables cooked in fried form, frozen instant vegetable snacks.

b. Fruits

Include as per age: All seasonal fruits in fresh ripe form. They can be added to kheer, porridge, homemade ice creams, ice lollies and popsicles.

Limit: Frozen and dehydrated fruits (may contain sugar, sodium)

Avoid: Juice (even 100% fruit juice), jams, jellies and fruit syrups. Fruit flavours in processed foods do not add up to daily servings.

5. Fats and sugars

Though children need more healthy fats than adults, a little too much is being consumed due to over-dependence on processed, junk and convenience foods. Junk, together with a high intake of sugary foods and drinks, is a leading cause of childhood obesity, which, in turn, increases the risk for non-communicable diseases during adulthood.

Include as per age:Ghee, butter (no sodium), vegetable oils, natural sweeteners

Limit: Jaggery, honey

Avoid: Transfats, hydrogenated fat-based chocolates, biscuits and refined sugars. Juice with sugar, fizzy drinks, sauces and other processed foods must also be avoided.

Some tips!

  • Keep trying to offer a variety of textures, flavours and colours in foods from all food groups repeatedly as your child may take time to accept and enjoy new foods. Try serving a new food along with a favourite food.
  • Do not force-feed and don’t overestimate portion sizes for them. A child’s hunger and satiety signals are very much active. Many children go through a fussy eating phase, but you need not worry if her growth is normal and your child is active and responsive! Children should choose the actual portion size to eat if possible.
  • The capacity of a child’s stomach is small. So, frequent eating in the form of healthy snacking is essential. Do not give her snacks or fluids just before meals.
  • Water and plain milk are the best drinks for children. But too much milk can reduce iron absorption, so remember to give no more than 3 servings of milk (or dairy foods) daily. Tea and coffee too reduce iron absorption.
  • Do not add sugar & salt to basic foods just because you feel the child wants it that way, for example, milk, curd, buttermilk, porridges, etc.
  • Do not have TV/laptop/ipad/mobile etc around for mealtime as there is too much distraction & influence.
  • Children copy from elders so set ideal examples about healthy food habits yourself and sit together to enjoy food!

To sum it all up, make meal times an enjoyable experience for everyone not a war time and consult a qualified nutritionist/dietitian if you must!