From worrying about little ones not getting enough nutrition to kiddies who struggle with extra weight, mamas are constantly trying to find the right balance for their growing children. And while all of us know or imagine we know just what the child needs, here’s a handy map for navigating the healthy diet for your future champ.
A balanced diet requires a good mix of energy-rich foods, immunity boosting vitamins and essential minerals as well as foods rich in proteins and other building blocks of growth. Here are the signposts on your food map:
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Proteins are essential for muscle growth and repair in a child during growing years. Offer foods rich in proteins but not very high in calories. Whole dals, beans, tofu, lean meat, chicken, fish, low-fat curd/paneer/cheese etc. are various good protein sources. Foods rich in proteins should be given in each meal.
Vegetables and fruits
Fruits and vegetables are an easy and effortless way to get essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into a child’s diet. These are generally low in calories and the fiber present in them adds to the satiety value. Do include vegetables like dark leafy green and water-based vegetables like pumpkin, gourds, cucumber, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers etc. For fruits the focus should be on citrus, papaya, guava, berries, apples and melons.
Whole grain and unprocessed cereals
Carbohydrates are an essential part of child’s diet so choose wisely from whole grain cereals like oats, whole wheat atta, barley, bajra, ragi, dalia, unpolished rice, rice flakes etc. in different meals. These provide not just carbohydrates but also fiber and some amount of minerals to the child.
Toned milk products
Since milk is generally an important component of a child’s diet chose toned or double toned milk to provide same amount of protein, calcium with much lower calorie content after the first five years.
It is important to keep children well hydrated with 6-8 glasses of water in a day.
WHAT TO RESTRICT
Sugars, sweets and fats
Since sugar and fats, like oils and ghee are very high in calories, they should be given in restricted amounts only. Sugar is better avoided and is best consumed from natural sources like fruits and dried fruits. Fats from saturated sources like butter, ghee should be given in very less amounts and use cold pressed oils of olive, mustard, sesame and coconut for cooking.
Packaged and processed foods
Ready to eat snacks and food items may be high in taste but they are equally high in refined cereals, fats, salt/sugar and chemicals etc. The consumption of packaged food leads to empty calories which are low in other nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber etc. If your child is consuming these on regular basis, the chances of going overboard on calories are high making the child prone to childhood obesity.
Aerated beverages, packed juices
These are equally responsible for empty calories in your child’s diet. Aerated beverages and packed juice are very high in sugar. Whole fruit are a much healthier than juices.
Samosas, pakoras, doughnuts, fries, potato chips, namkeens, are all high in fats and also have high content of unhealthy trans-fats. These trans fats are related to dyslipidemia, diabetes and other lifestyle disorders later in adult life.
The long and short of it.
As you plan the menu for your growing explorer the idea is to offer a rainbow of colours, tastes and textures from natural sources with as little processing as possible. Involving children in how food is grown or cooked also adds to their appreciation of healthy, life-nourishing food creating a positive eating pattern for life.