Children should have nutritious food right from six months after their birth to school-going age. They like only particular food items and refuse the rest. It is not important to see what they like or don't like. Parents should take care to see that they are getting the right kind of nutrients. In this context, let us learn about what is to be taken at what age, from nutritionists and medical experts.
Mother's milk is best for infants. Even formula milk or both combined, can be given. Almost all nutrients reach the baby through mother's milk. Only Vitamin D is insufficient. That is why they should be exposed to early morning sunrays daily, for some time. Or it should be administered in the form of drops. Also, they do not get sufficient iron. That is why doctors suggest iron, zinc and vitamin drops. Weaning mothers should focus on taking a fully nutritious diet.
This is because infants get nutrients through mother's milk. Many studies have proved that intake of nutritious food also helps in sufficient breast milk production. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines state that infants should be given nothing but mother's milk up till the age of six months. Breast-feeding should continue up till the end of two years of the child. Infants are ready to take solid food, from the age of six months onwards. They should be given rice, cooked vegetables and fruits.
When they are a year old, children should be introduced to all kinds of food that are normally taken at home, one by one. They are able to detect taste from this age. Good food habits should be learnt at this time. If they refuse to eat some kinds of foods, do not keep them aside. If you do that, these will remain as 'untouchable' foods all through their lives. If you think that some food is inadequate, consult the child's doctor, who will know what to do.
Amount of food
Children will eat only to satiate their hunger. If they refuse to eat after taking some portion, it is understood that they are full. It is natural that hunger among children grows along with their age. If you think that children are not getting sufficient nutrients, you must consult a nutritionist. Also, if their weight is decreasing, consult a doctor immediately.
All kinds of tastes
Always encourage kids to taste new variety of foods. Fruits, green leaves, eggs, vegetables, yogurt or curd are the most important. Ensure that kids do not avoid these. Children follow elders in eating habits, from the age of one year. So the eating habits of the family members impacts them. For the kind of food that is to be given to children, check out the link of National Child Welfare department: http://www.wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/nationalguidlines.pdf
After one year
Because they are growing, make sure that they drink sufficient milk. Because mother's milk is not sufficient, extra milk should be given separately. Calcium is very essential, for bones and teeth. Bones are given much prominence besides muscles, in the body. If children are allergic to milk or do not take it, they should be given soya milk, fruit juice with calcium, rice, oatmeal etc. Doctors might suggest calcium supplements at this age. Fibre is also essential. This should be of sufficient quantity, in the food that is consumed.
Fat is essential for kids but it should be in limited quantities. So it is enough if there is low fat in their diet. Also, ensure that there are less saturated and trans fat.
Physical growth after five years
By the time they are five years old, children's brains are completely developed. From the 5th year onwards, real physical growth begins. They should be given adequate iron supplements for free blood circulation. But these days, parents are giving processed foods like biscuits, sandwiches, noodles, candies and chocolates etc., instead of natural foods. This increases trans fat levels in children. As such, their physical growth is hampered, says prominent nutritional expert, Dr. Suvarna Pathak. Children do not get enough vitamins and nutrients. This leads to gastro-intestinal and related diseases. Normally, children do not get enough vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin D3 (for bones), B3 (nerves), B12 (muscles), iron (for the blood) are essential for children. Focus should be on giving nutritious food, with vitamins and minerals, to help growth. Basic nutrients like calcium, proteins, iron, vitamins etc., should be given in a balanced manner, Dr. Suvarna Pathak said.
These days, the energy of children is dissipated in school, sports, tuitions, additional skills. Keeping these issues in mind, nutritional expert Geetha Dharmatatti has suggested a menu with various kinds of foods: 1. Bread Slice, dosa, rice flakes, all kinds of foods. 2. milk, milk products, eggs, soy milk, eggs in any form. Daily 150 ml of milk and 100 gm of curd, paneer and cheese. 3. fruits, vegetables. Available seasonal fruits, apple, berries, carrots, green peas, should be taken.
Milk shake, fruits or cornflakes or oats with milk can be taken. Rice flakes can be mixed with vegetables. Chapatti and omelette and boiled egg are an option. Children should take full meals, four times a day, according to WHO guidelines. This includes, fruit juices, pro-biotic curd, vegetables (soups or boiled). Chapattis and paratas should be a part of the meals. Sprouts and beans add to the nutritional value. Immunity develops.
Food grains are a must. Nutrients and calories in these help in growth of children. Along with whole grains, bread, oats, and rice should be taken. Refined food material, excessive sugar, more saturated fats, salt or sodium, cakes and biscuits should be avoided.
Fruits and vegetables
Water, vitamins, minerals, fibre are obtained through fruits and vegetables. Children should take five portions of fruits and vegetables in one day.
Small kids and teenagers need fats and oils. These help in the mental growth of children. Fat is like fuel to the body. The body makes Vitamin A, D, E and K in fats absorbable. Weight gain, obesity and heart diseases occur by consuming excessive fatty foods. Health is gained by taking them in adequate quantities. Nuts, Avocado, corn oil, soya bean oil, olive oil, canola oil are healthy options.
Milk, milk products
Milk and milk products are full of nutrients. They contain, Vitamin A, D, B1, B12, minerals, and most importantly calcium. Milk is important for infants and young children. Calcium that is essential for bone growth is available.
Meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, seeds have a number of nutrients. They should have a place in a healthy diet. They are useful for a number of activities. Meat is a store house of Vitamin B12 and iron. It prevents anaemia. A majority of children face this problem. They look pale and tired because of lack of blood. Vegetarians can taken soya, beans, eggs, milk, cheese cake, curd, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, instead of meat.
How much milk is necessary?
Kids of two to three years of age should have two cups of milk (480 ml) daily. Those between four to eight years should have two and a half cups (600 ml) daily. Beyond nine years of age, they should be given three cups daily (720 ml), according to Dr. Devayani Bannerjee. Toned milk or milk with one per cent fat should be used.
When children are ill, do not make them fast. Grains, milk, vegetables should be given in small portions, more number of times. Lots of water and liquids should be given. Oral rehydration juice should be given if necessary.
A nutritious diet chart
- A glass of lukewarm low fat milk
- An omelette with eggs, onions, tomatoes, spinach, whole grains and an apple for breakfast.
- Fruit salad, low-fat yogurt at 11 a.m.
- Rice, fruit juice and lean chicken (non-vegetarians) for lunch
- Spinach, mushroom cutlet, fresh fruit juice with almonds (apple, guava or lime juice)
- Multigrain (flour made out of more than one grains) pulkas, dhal, panneer, mushroom curry. A glass of milk before sleeping.
Dr. Khashish A Chabbria said that wheat products should not be given to children. The gluten in wheat makes the food stick to the intestines, not allowing it to move forward, he said. As many children are averse to gluten, it should be removed from their diet, he said.
Children need daily exercise. For strong bones and muscles, exercise is important. Walking, running and other sports are useful. In this, parents are role models for their children. By themselves doing exercises, they should encourage the children to do this.
What nutrients in which
We have said that balanced diet is necessary for children. For this, it becomes necessary to know what nutrients are found in which foods.
Proteins are essential for cell building. For food to become energy and for fighting infections or supplying of oxygen, proteins are a must. They are available in abundance in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts (almonds, walnuts etc.), beans and milk products.
These are essential for generating energy in the body. They help fats and proteins in cell and body building. Sugars, starch, fibrous foods and similar foods have carbohydrates. Make sure that children get their carbohydrates not essentially from sugars but from other source. Bread, pulses, rice and potatoes have carbohydrates.
Children should not take much fat. But they should get the required amounts. They are necessary for the body to absorb some kinds of nutrients. Products that have excess fat are whole milk and its products, cooking oil, meat, fish and nuts.
Calcium is the root for bones and teeth. It is essential for the nerves, for coagulation of blood, muscles and for the functioning of the heart. Milk, curd, ice cream, egg yolk, cabbage, spinach etc., foods have the required amount of calcium.
There should be continuous blood supply to all cells in the body. Iron is essential for producing blood. It is found in poultry, fish, pulses, beans and nuts.
It is a kind of B Vitamin. For healthy growth and cell development, folate is essential. The lack of folate leads to anaemia. Pulses, vegetables and seeds, Spinach and black or kidney beans have adequate folate.
Food when easily digested, needs fibre to be eliminated. Roots, pulses, kidney beans, nuts have fibre in abundance.
This is useful for body building, eyesight, skin, prevention of infection, etc. Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, spinach, cabbage, fish oils, egg yolk have Vitamin A.
It is essential for the building of the walls of blood vessels, healing of wounds, preventing diseases, bones and teeth. Citrus fruits (orange, lime, sweet lime etc.), strawberry, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, papaya and mango have Vitamin C.