Does your child love gorging on cheese burgers and potato fries? No wonder! Most children gobble up chocolates, pizzas and sandwiches but say ‘no’ to healthy and nutritious food.
Therefore, it is essential to inculcate healthy eating habits in children early on, as a balanced diet is vital to ensure proper growth and development. Explaining the nutritional value of different food items to children while eating or shopping for food is a good way of keeping them away from junk food.
Also, children belonging to different age groups have different nutritional requirements. Usually, most parents are either confused or have little knowledge of the dietary requirements of their children.
Mentioned below are some tips to help parents fulfil the nutritional requirements of children aged 0–5 years.
Until babies are 4–5 months old, breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing nutrition. Not only does breast milk fulfil their nutritional requirement but also boosts their immunity. Any transition to other sources of nutrition should begin only after a baby is 6 months old.
Although babies can be breastfed until they are 12 months old, breast milk can be supplemented with pure fruit juices by the time they are 6 months old. Also, it is better to feed a 6-month-old baby from a cup instead of a bottle.
- Infants and young children can self-regulate the amount of calories they need. Therefore, consider demand feeding and avoid overfeeding young children.
- While offering foods to children, parents should consider its overall nutritional value rather than focussing on any one nutrient.
- Children under 3 years of age require foods that are rich in fat. They need at least 27 g of fat every day compared to 25 g required by 4–6 year olds.
- Keep children away from processed food items.
- Consider a variety of foods to fulfil the body requirement of carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients
- Ensure that the diet provides the optimum number of calories needed for proper growth and development.
- Encourage children to engage in at least 40–60 minutes of vigorous physical activities that increase their heart rate. Some such activities are jumping, dancing and running.
- Offer fruit juices and milkshakes to children who avoid or don’t like eating fruits.
The following chart outlines the daily nutrition requirements of children who are 2–5 years old.
For more information on diet and digestion in children, read the following article.
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The author is a nutritionist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru