Find out your child's 'eating personality' with this quiz. Shiny Lizia M, a nutritionist, decodes these personalities for you!
Dairy is your child's cup of tea! While milk can be a great source of calcium, it can also lower the intake of other foods that are required for your child's growth. You may need to limit his consumption of milk if he drinks more than five cups a day on a regular basis. The recommended amount of milk and milk products for children is 500ml per day. Milk is low in iron and is also known to inhibit the absorption of iron in the body. Therefore, young children who consume excess milk may become iron deficient.
Ensure your child is eating a balanced diet. In an ideal diet, carbohydrates (cereals, pulses and dairy), preferably complex carbohydrates (whole grains), should provide 50-60 per cent of total calories, proteins (pulses, milk, meat and eggs) 10-15 per cent, and visible and invisible fat (oils, fats and nuts) 20-30 per cent. Provide your child with various food choices to make mealtimes interesting.
By definition, junk food is 'any food, which is low in essential nutrients and high in everything else-in particular, calories and sodium'. Food colours, additives, preservatives, reheated oils and microbial contamination in such foods pose a bigger problem. Increased junk food consumption leads to an increase in body mass index in children. A diet high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories increases the risk of developing obesity, hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance.
Try to understand the factors that contribute to your child's preference for eating junk food, and then choose ways to overcome them. Provide your child with healthy snacks such as boiled sweet corn, groundnuts, lentils, poached fruits, vegetable stews, and grilled cutlets. Include more whole grains, pulses and fibre-rich foods in your child's diet. Make sure she stays well hydrated. Keep her active and reduce the sedentary time in her routine.
Eating healthy is appreciable, and is going to help your child follow a healthy dietary pattern all through his life. Healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, but low in calories, proteins and fats - the three major macronutrients required for body growth and energy.
To prepare a balanced and appealing meal, combine food items that are nourishing and tasty. Within a meal, present foods in different shapes and textures. For example, serve toasted garlic bread and crunchy carrot slices or bhel chat with shredded cabbage, diced cucumbers and nuts.
If your child is eating more than the recommended portions, it's time to help him adopt the concept of small, frequent meals. 'Eating zones' are times you designate as mealtimes and snack times for children who have trouble sticking to timings while eating. These 'zones' are also very useful for those who cannot resist food at the very sight of it.
Teach your child the concept of sizes and proportions while eating. Do not use food as a reward or punishment. Serve healthy side dishes to balance heavy 'mains'. For example, serve carrot slices instead of cheese or chips with a grilled chicken sandwich.
Here, sweets and children seem to have formed a natural bond that is hard to break. If you're concerned that your little 'sugar addict' is out of control, you are seeking the right counsel. Though it's well known that soda, candies, cookies and ice cream are common culprits, you may not realise how much sugar your child is consuming in her regular food too. It's hard to avoid, which is why it is all the more important that you limit your little one's sweet snacks. Certain sweetened beverages contain caffeine. Drinking these for prolonged periods can lead to poor sleep habits and anxiety apart from dental cavities in younger children.
Offer healthy alternatives like milk, fresh fruit juice and tender coconut water. Do not add sugar to fruit salad, as this destroys the existence of nutrients. You should also be aware that mostly children's medicine comes in the form of sweet syrup. If your child requires long-term medication, discuss with your doctor on possibilities of switching to sugar-free preparations.
'Eating zones' are times you designate as mealtimes and snack times for children who have trouble sticking to timings while eating
No matter which category your child belongs to, try to incorporate the healthy concepts mentioned for each character. Let him be a Jughead during breakfast; a Popeye during lunch and dinner; a Jerry before and after bedtime; and occasionally a Scooby or Winnie the Pooh. A combination of all these characters in the right proportion will help your child consume a balanced diet. Sit together as a family and plan your weekly menu, which should include your child's choices (correct him in a friendly manner if he suggests unhealthy food choices).
This system will instil in your child a sense of responsibility and make him adhere to the collectively decided menu. Avoid making negative comments on how much your child eats or the types of food he chooses. Instead, educate him about the rewards of healthy eating, which are stronger teeth and bones, healthier hair, clearer and brighter skin and a muscular physique to name a few. Bon apptit!
Shiny Lizia M is a Chennai-based nutritionist.
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