WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
Getting your little ones to eat is just one art of a daily job list. Choosing the right foods for them is another. As an informed mother, you must offer the right nutrition for your young ones' holistic growth. Understanding which foods are rich in nutrients, helps in making those decisions more effectively. A well planned, balanced diet is the best way to meet a growing child’s nutrient needs. An ideal combination will be a mix of macro and micronutrients in adequate amounts.
WHAT ARE MICRONUTRIENTS?
Macronutrient requirements are often well met among urban kids, as per recent observations. However, micronutrient are often missing and need particular attention. Micronutrients are essentials such as vitamins and minerals, which are required in small amounts, but are crucial for a children's proper growth and development. Micronutrient deficiency is a public health problem affecting more than one-fourth of the global population.
THE IRON PATH
Anaemia is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency in India and it affects almost 50 to 60 percent of preschool children and women (IJMR 2018). The lack of Iron in kids can cause anaemia and lead to symptoms like fatigue. The primary role of iron is to carry oxygen through red blood cells. In the absence of enough iron, your child's muscles, tissues, and cells will not receive the oxygen they need. Your little ones especially need red blood cells to produce energy to run and play. Iron from food comes in 2 primary forms:
- Heme iron: This comes from animal sources like meat, liver, chicken, seafood, and egg yolks. The body absorbs heme iron better than non-heme.
- Non-heme iron: Obtained from plants such as in cereals like amaranth, bajra, ragi. Legumes & pulses like soybean, dried beans, nuts and seeds like dates, raisins, sesame seeds. Leafy vegetables like amaranth leaves, beet greens, fenugreek leaves, drumstick leaves. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron.
THE VITAMIN A WAY
Another micronutrient necessary for growth in children is Vitamin A. It is needed for healthy immune function, normal vision, healthy skin, and cell growth. Vitamin A is a generic term that refers to fat-soluble compounds present as preformed vitamin A (retinol) in animal products. Provitamin A carotenoids come from plant sources in fruit like apricots, mangos, and melons and vegetables such as pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, carrots, etc.
NEVER TOO LATE FOR FOLATE
Folate or Folic acid is a vitamin that often goes unnoticed while planning meals for kids. Folate is necessary for the development and function of the brain. It helps in the absorption of protein and forms new blood cells and DNA. And the growing body of kids makes lots of new cells every day. Folate is present in green leafy vegetables, legumes, wholegrain, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, liver, eggs, dairy products, meat, and poultry.
While planning daily meals for your loved one, keep these rich food sources in mind. Since many of the nutrients have an animal origins, vegetarians can also consider supplementation for their kids to ensure adequate micronutrients. Mix and match ingredient get playful and experiment with texture while choosing from a nutrient-rich treasure trove of nature.