Eating the right kind of food is very important right from infancy. During the early childhood children are physically and mentally very active, to cope up to their nutritional needs mom’s need to put in an extra effort to make sure they are eating enough and right.
A few general pointers before we begin:
First, parents have to be the role model to their children so please make sure you eat healthy food, your children will automatically follow what you do. We can’t order pizza and ask our children to eat salads.
Never load your fridge with junk foods and snacks and every time when you serve the food , make an attempt to explain the nutritional importance of that food/dish, example tell them regular intake of greens is required for hair growth… Drinking milk will make them strong…. So that children will understand the importance of food and stop ignoring them.
Create a positive atmosphere in the dining area, not a battle field, never force feed a child. Make eating a pleasant activity, involve them in cooking like peeling potatoes, deshell a boiled egg etc. Sometimes mom’s need to make the food more interesting by arranging them in a certain way or by hiding the greens, veggies inside the patties, cutlets etc and making fruit smoothies if the children totally avoid veggies. Try and source organic foods from mustard seeds to milk, trust me this is the best health insurance to your kids. Carbohydrates like rice, wheat, oats, puffed rice, sago, flaked rice, gives them energy. Make sure you get whole grain instead of refined grains. Refined and processed food doesn’t add any nutritional value to the food, so it is better to introduce whole foods to the children. Millets like ragi, bajra, corn, maize and jowar are equally important.
Make sure kids have minimum 2 different cereal 3-4 times a day. Try to cut down the wheat and maida intake cos it causes allergy and various other hidden health problems. Cereals should be combined with proteins like dhal, lentils, paneer for vegetarians and fish, egg, meat for non-vegetarians. Proteins are more important for muscle and tissue growth and also mainly for healthy hair. This generation of children are facing hair loss problem, right from childhood if you incorporate good quality protein our kids won’t face this issue.
On an average 3-6 year children need around 1200 kcal everyday, boys need extra 200 kcal. Deriving the calories from the right proportion of nutrients is very very important. 35-45% of calorie from carbohydrate group, 20-25% of calories should come from protein source. Remaining 15-20% calories should be derived from healthy fat. To make it simple, half of their food plate should be filled with vegetables, in the other half, one half with carbs(cereals)and other half with protein(pulses)rich Veggies and fruits are very important, include different coloured vegetables, bring in the rainbow in their food plate. The more colourful food they eat, the more nutrients they get. Encourage them to eat whole fruit, which is far better than juices.
Calcium and Iron are most important nutrients. So please make sure they include 500 ml dairy product and enough play in the sunlight for calcium absorption and vitamin c rich foods like Citrus fruit for iron absorption. Drumstick leaves, figs, pomegranate, liver, puffed and flaked rice and jaggery are rich source of iron.
Lastly, Health is important and the beginning of this is teaching healthy eating habits to our kids right from childhood which saves them from falling in the trap of health issues when they grow up.
The above post is by Anita Nallapan. She is a Chennai based nutritionist, with 10 years experience as a diet consultant. She was a lecturer at a reputed college and has contributed health related articles to various magazines as well.
An organic enthusiast that she is, she tries to promote organic living as much as possible. Anita can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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