Healthy body is key to a better future. As a parent, the most important thing you can do to give your children a healthy life is to make them learn healthy eating habits. What is the importance of balanced diet? Balanced Diet is a combination of food from all 3 food groups: vegetables & fruits, whole grains & protein, fats. And they also need complete meals and snacks during the day. Healthy snacks are just as important as the food you serve at meals. For body to work effectively, it has to be fed the balanced nutrition for the day. (Nutrition for kids)
Children who don’t get enough healthy foods may face delayed growth and development, compromised cognition and reduced immunity. Usually children love processed or packaged foods because they enjoy the taste and experience of digging into a packet. Surprisingly, these happy emotions are further charged up by the development of dopamine from these processed foods. This tricks the brain into consuming more and more of these empty, nutrition-less calories
Also check, what harm does this cause?
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What is the importance of balanced diet?
Most commonly we hear parents say that their child is active and looks healthy too, so, nutrition is not their worry (Do healthy kids need supplements?). Some parents also add that ‘they also turned out fine without their parents worrying so much about nutrition when they were young’. Compared to today’s time, food earlier was less contaminated, primarily local, fresh and seasonal. Sadly, kids nowadays consume at least two servings of processed food in a day. This only worsens their chances of consuming a balanced diet.
While it is not apparent to a parent everyday, but the child is in utmost need of balanced nutrient rich diet, especially in the growing and foundation years. Every living moment, the child’s body cells are oxidising (like ours) and aging. Which means, the cells are deteriorating in quality and performance. It is not evident so easily, however, lower immunity, early greying of hair, weak muscles, disturbed digestion, lowered vision, hormonal imbalance are all examples of this. To make sure that the quality of body cells remain for as long as possible, the cells have to be fed the necessary nutrition everyday. What we feed our kids today will only show many years later.
WHAT IS A BALANCED DIET?
Balanced diet contains different kind of foods in certain quantities and proportion, so that the requirement for all the macronutrients (Carbs, Protein, Fats, ) and micro nutrients (Vitamins and minerals, Fiber) along with water can be fulfilled. The importance of balanced diet is that it helps children maintain good health, reduce their risk of disease, build up strong immune system and help them in growth and development of a healthy mind and body.
This chart of balanced diet can help us to understand the dietary requirements for kids of different ages.
Carbohydrates are the biggest source of energy for kids. Almost 60% of energy (calories) for the day must come from carbohydrate foods. They provide instant energy and keep the kids on their toes. Every gram of carb consumed gives 4 calories to the body. So if a child has to consume 2000 calories in a day (as per height weight), then 1200 calories should come from carbs (this means 300g carbs in a day), preferably whole grains and not processed carbs like sugar (why is sugar harmful?). carbohydrate rich foods are also among the weight gain foods for kids.
Proteins are essential nutrients for children and third highest provider of energy for the day. Along with being the building blocks of the body, they also give 10-15% of energy (calories) to kids. A child must consume almost 1g protein per kg of weight. So if a child weighs 40kg, then he/she must consume 35-40g of protein everyday. Every gram of protein consumed gives 4 calories to the body. Food rich in protein is a must for kids since it digests slowly, support hunger for long, and is great for skin, hair, muscle of the body. A child roughly gets 150 calories a day from protein food like lentils, beans, cottage cheese, moringa (what is it?) etc.
Body needs fat (what are saturated and unsaturated fat?) from natural sources. They help to fix hormones that can otherwise cause the body to go haywire impacting weight, mood, acne, bloating, PCOS, thyroid, sleep and the list goes on. Our brain, that is just 2% of our body mass but consumes 25% energy of the body, needs fat to perform efficiently for life. Saturated fat also stays inside the body cells to build a defence system and attack viruses and bacterias. 25-30% of the body energy comes from fat sources like nuts, coconut, avocado, dairy etc. Every gram of fat gives 9 calories to the body and hence should be consumed in limited quantity not exceeding 60g.
Vitamins helps the body grow and work the way it should be. There are 13 essential vitamins A, C, D, E, K and vitamin Bs. Some helps in eyesight and energy production, while others support healthy nerves and cell and in fighting infections. A balanced diet and help meet the requirements of these on a daily basis (do healthy kids need supplements?)
Just like vitamins, minerals also help kids grow, develop and stay healthy. Minerals support stronger bones and teeth, healthy nerve function, absorption of important vitamins, protection against current lifestyle and process food damage. Essential mineral includes Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium.
Not exactly a nutrient but extremely critical to the body, fibre is the roughage of plant based food (grains , fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans ) that body can’t break down. It helps kids with digestion by providing food for the bacteria (what is a gut bacteria?) in the gut and also support transfer of important vitamins to the stomach.
Water plays an important role in all the body functions including digestion. It carries nutrients to all cells in the body including the brain.
Hence we can say that balanced diet is very important for child’s overall growth and development. While it is usually preferred to get the nutrients a child needs from food rather than a pills or syrup or gummy supplements, its not always possible . That’s because some kids are picky eaters and their intake of food is limited to a chosen few. Or despite consuming healthy complete meals, a child may have a severe deficiency of a particular vitamin due to a prevalent health concern. This may result in a deficiency of any key vitamin in their body. The next best solution in such situation is to consume supplements made of real foods and fortified with the necessary vitamins. For example, some cereals are fortified with vitamin B12 as its found deficient in many vegetarian kids. Oils can be fortified with vitamin D for kids who are off dairy.
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