HEALTHY EATING FOR CHILDREN

Kid’s meal in a day

Which are the good foods for children’s health? How much food is enough for my kid? These are questions that every parent faces in day to day life. Providing all the basic nutrients to their kids in the right quantity is what every parent is thriving for. With a rising childhood obesity rate, parents are often worried that they are over feeding their kid. On the other hand, being underweight is also a major concern for parents. Kids of different ages need different amounts of calories in a day depending on their existing weight and activity levels. 

What comprises nutritious food for children?

Choosing the right amount of calories, fulfilling children’s daily nutritional requirements and planning their meals to make it tasty yet healthy is a herculean task for parents. A healthy or balanced meal is one comprising all the three food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fats along with micro nutrients such as vitamins (vitamin A, B, C, D, E,K), minerals (calcium, zinc, iodine), fiber and water in the right quantity. It has been found that children who eat a balanced diet are healthy, lead an active lifestyle and have lower chances of developing any health issues at a later age.

Importance of Nutritious Food for Children

It is the parent’s responsibility to provide nutritious food for children according to the kid’s age, gender and activity levels. Nutrients that we obtain from food have significant effects on our kid’s physical and mental growth and development, maintenance of normal body function, physical activity and overall health. Requirements of essential nutrients vary with age, gender, physiological status and activity. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are macro-nutrients which are needed in larger quantities whereas vitamins and minerals are needed in smaller amounts. Children, in particular, need healthy meals to complement their growing bodies.

What problems the kid might face due to lack of proper nutrition in their diet?

Nutritional deficiency is a major factor contributing to various diseases like obesity, iron deficiency, weak vision, hair fall, dry skin etc. In school-children, proper nutrition becomes more important to prevent them from falling sick regularly which affects their learning capabilities. Few nutritional problems faced by school going children are obesity, eating disorders, low immunity, dental problems and anemia.

How to plan your Kid’s meal?

With all the information about the importance of a balanced and healthy diet, the next question that comes to a parent’s mind is what are the good food for children’s health, how can they provide all these nutrients to their children, how many meals should they have and what all to include in their meal so that it is appealing to kids and healthy at the same time. A child’s daily calorie intake depends on the kid’s age, current weight & activity levels. Four meals a day with a gap of three hours is advisable for kids as well as adults.

Depending on their recommended daily calorie intake, parents can plan each meal with a proper amount of nutrients and calories. For example, if a kid’s daily calorie need is fifteen hundred calories, then he/she can have four meals, each meal approximately comprising three hundred calories. Some important points to remember while preparing your kid’s meal are: choose a variety of foods depending on their age, gender, physiological status and physical activities combining whole grains, beans/ lentils and greens in appropriate amounts, prefer fresh & locally available fruits and vegetables and encourage mindful eating for kids, which means that they understand what they are eating and for which purpose. This understanding in kids at a young age goes a long way in making better food choices for themselves.

What are the food sources for various food groups?

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are also known as energy giving foods. It means, they are one of the three main ways from which the body obtains energy or calories. Foods rich in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. It provides glucose, which is converted to energy and further used in body functioning and physical activities. Carbohydrates are found as both simple and complex carbs. Food sources such as fruits, milk and milk products are quick sources of energy called simple carbs. This can also include refined or processed sugar or syrups or soft drinks or other processed and packed foods. Vegetables, whole grains are types of complex carbs which take longer to digest and breakdown into energy. They keep the body full for longer and are often loaded with fiber, also supporting a healthy weight. (What are some healthy weight gain foods?)

Proteins: Protein acts as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. It is made up of a chemical called amino acids. Amino acids are necessary to make protein in the body. Consuming a variety of food results in higher chances of eating all 20 amino acids required to build proteins. If there is a shortage of amino acids required, the body stops making protein. The bulk of food consumed is then stored as fat in the body causing weight gain. Proteins are necessary to build and repair muscles and bones and to make hormones and enzymes. Protein group includes all meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds. (What are some easy protein sources?)

Fats: Fats are a concentrated source of energy and are made of fatty acids in different proportions. Fats also promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, K. Nuts & seeds, vegetable and nut oils, ghee, butter are sources of fats. Liver helps to breakdown fat in the body. Excess fat intake can put extra pressure on the liver resulting in likely damage. Also, any additional fat not used in the body is stored in the cells for later use at specific fat reserves (hips, thighs, upper arms, and tummy) in the body. Body needs fat for energy, producing hormones, keeping the body warm and protecting it against infection. Fat is extremely important for the brain also. Fats can be saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and found mostly in dairy products, animal products and processed/ packaged foods in high quantities. Unsaturated fat is the good fat found in plant sources (except also in fish) like avocado, olive, nuts & seeds, fish (sardines, salmon). This fat is mostly liquid at room temp. While choosing a food, it is advised to keep the saturated fat as low as possible. (Which fat is good for the body?)

Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals are called protective foods as they help to remove deficiencies, build bones, heal wounds, fight diseases and build strong immune systems.

Vitamins are important for various processes and maintenance of the structure of skin, bone, nerves, eye, brain, blood. Vitamins are water-soluble or fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K ) are found in leafy vegetables, animal products, nuts & seeds, vegetable oils, dairy foods. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, the B vitamins) are commonly found in nuts & seeds, fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and dairy foods. (What foods have which vitamins?)

Minerals include calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride and sulphur are found in nuts, seeds, shellfish, chicken, eggs, beans, cocoa, avocados, berries, yogurt and cheese. (What are some vitamins and minerals for bones?)

Recipe: Oats Cake

  • 1 cup oats flour (grind oats to make flour)
  • ½ cup milk (or nut milk)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 2 eggs beaten or flax-egg (2 tbsp flax seed powder mixed with 12 tbsp warm water. Leave for 5 minutes to make lumpy paste)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup jaggery or coconut sugar (as per taste)
  • ½ tsp vanila essence (optional)
  • ¼ tsp salt (epsom salt preferred)

Mix all with hand and pour in a lined pan. Preheat at 200 celsius for 5 min. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let it cool outside. Serve.

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