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Every parent plans meticulously for the healthy growth and development of their child; this starts with healthy meals packed with nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are essential to their development. Planning your child’s diet is never an easy thing as their metabolism is faster and they can process food better than an average adult. They also have different nutritional requirements for their growing bodies.
growing child burns more calories in a day than a sedentary adult can in a week, this is something parents need to consider before planning meals for their children.
Importance of Nutrition for Children
The right nutrition for children can result in many benefits for your child apart from not having any nutritional deficiencies.
- A good nutritional plan will ensure the right kind of growth and development.
- Healthy food habits learnt during childhood will ensure that your child will have a healthier life as an adult. Studies have shown that adults who had a nutritionally balanced childhood have lesser instances of high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These individuals also have lesser chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- With good nutrition, many diseases can be kept at bay. Conditions like iron deficiency, dental cavities, and osteoporosis can be avoided to a large extent.
- Good nutrition will provide your child with the right balance of energy as he/she grows up. They will be able to participate in activities that will keep them active and healthy.
- A healthy nutrition plan will help prevent obesity. Obesity amongst children is fast becoming one of the biggest health concerns of our times. Diseases caused by obesity like type two diabetes and high cholesterol are now commonly seen in children. Ensuring that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibre will help stave off obesity.
- Creating valuable and good eating habits is a natural by-product of good nutrition during childhood. Learning when and how much to snack while balancing meals are important lessons that must be learnt early in life.
- Breakfast is one of the most skipped meals of the day. It is also one of the most harmful meals to miss as it helps regulate blood sugar levels and improves brain function.
- Eating healthy at an early age will ensure that your child hits puberty at the correct age. Girls will find that their menstrual cycle is more regular with far lesser complications.
- A well-balanced diet from an early age helps improve physical development. Many doctors argue that a healthy diet can help a child grow taller, have a better metabolism and can even improve their skin health.
- Eating healthy from an early age will assist in building your child’s self-esteem and help regulate brain chemicals to fight off anxiety and depression.
Age Wise Child Nutrition Chart
You must change the kind of food you give your child according to your child’s age and gender. Different ages require different ratios of the nutrients and quantity of calories. You can follow the chart below to understand the same and develop food plans accordingly.
|Age Group||Name of Food Group||Daily Requirement for Boys||Daily Requirement for Girls||Sources|
|2-3 years||Protein||70gm||70gm||Pulses, chicken breast, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|Fruits||1-1.5 cups||1-1.5 cups||Apples, bananas, seasonal fruits, papaya, watermelon|
|Vegetables||1-1.5 cups||1-1.5 cups||Potato, eggplant, ladies finger, radish, carrots, beets, yams, sweet potato, seasonal fresh vegetables|
|Grains||100gm||100gm||Rice, whole wheat, millets like jowar and bajra|
|Dairy||2 cups||2 cups||Milk, curds, fresh cheese|
|4-8 years||Protein||85-150gm||85-140gm||Pulses, chicken breast, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|Fruits||1-1.5 cups||1-2 cups||Apples, bananas, seasonal fruits, papaya, watermelon|
|Vegetables||1.5-2.5 cups||1.5-2.5 cups||Potato, eggplant, ladies finger, radish, carrots, beets, yams, sweet potato, seasonal fresh vegetables|
|Grains||115-170gm||115-170gm||Rice, whole wheat, millets like jowar and bajra|
|Dairy||2.5 cups||2.5 cups||Milk, curds, fresh cheese|
|9-13 years||Protein||140-185gm||115-170gm||Pulses, chicken breast, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|Fruits||1.5-2 cups||1.5-2 cups||Apples, bananas, seasonal fruits, papaya, watermelon|
|Vegetables||2-3.5 cups||1.5-3 cups||Potato, eggplant, ladies finger, radish, carrots, beets, yams, sweet potato, seasonal fresh vegetables|
|Grains||140-255gm||140-255gm||Rice, whole wheat, millets like jowar and bajra|
|Dairy||3 cups||3 cups||Milk, curds, fresh cheese|
|14-18 years||Protein||155-200gm||140-185gm||Pulses, chicken breast, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|Fruits||2-2.5 cups||1.5-2 cups||Apples, bananas, seasonal fruits, papaya, watermelon|
|Vegetables||2.5-4 cups||2.5-3 cups|
|Grains||170-285gm||170-225gm||Rice, whole wheat, millets like jowar and bajra|
|Dairy||3 cups||3 cups||Milk, curds, fresh cheese|
What About Nutritional Supplements?
There are many nutritional supplements out there that could affect your child’s health. Not all the ingredients in these supplements are tested on children and one cannot rule out side effects. Pre-adolescent and adolescent children might be interested in taking supplements especially for weight loss or muscle building. However, here are some things you must know:
- Products advertised as ‘natural’ do not necessarily mean safe. Find out from your paediatrician if your child can consume the same.
- Dietary supplements aren’t tested as rigorously as medicines are and are most likely not tested for children. This means that it could affect their health adversely.
- Studies have shown that many dietary supplements contain many harmful substances like chemicals and fillers. Be sure to read the label carefully before buying the same
- There are a significant number of children who need emergency care every year due to dietary supplements.
Before giving your child any nutritional supplements, it is best that you get clearance for the same from your child’s doctor.
Consequences of Poor Nutrition in Children
It is important not just for you to understand kids nutrition, but for your child as well. While there are many ‘quick fix’ diets out on the internet today, remember that there can be dire consequences to poor nutrition in children. In fact, poor nutrition is considered a form of malnutrition. If not monitored carefully these consequences can lead to numerous illnesses like:
- Skin conditions
- Respiratory disorders
- Gastro-intestinal disorders
- Renal failure
- Fatty liver
- Urinary tract infections
- Excretory tract infections
Talk to your doctor to keep yourself updated about the side effects of a poor diet and lack-lustre nutrition.
The most efficient way to build healthy habits while helping your child in their physical development is by planning a well-balanced meal that is high in nutritional value. A good diet for children can do wonders to their development, but a bad one can have dire consequences, it is important to plan a child’s diet based on the factors mentioned above as well as their own needs. Consult a dietician for a comprehensive understanding of your child’s nutritional requirements.