Children whether a toddler or a teen need more nutrients as compared to adults because they are growing. Adequate nutrition in children is needed for proper growth and development. Optimal nutrition also helps to prevent from infections and other medical problems, such as obesity, weak bones, and under-nutrition. Good nutrition ensures that your child grows to his/her full potential. Most growing children need three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and one or two snacks in between meals.
Nutrients Needed in children
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an important part of any healthy diet and are the primary energy source for the body. They provide your child the energy or calories needed for growth and physical activity. According to experts about 50 to 55% of your total daily calories need should come from carbohydrates. Grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes contain carbohydrates.
Fat: Fat is an essential component in your child's diet. Children below the age of two do not need fat restriction. But in a child over the age of two, fat intake should be restricted. It should be about 30 percent of the total calorie intake. Consumption of foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol should be limited.
Proteins: Foods rich in protein are necessary of growing children. Proteins are the building blocks of the body and help to build, maintain and repairs body tissue. Encourage your child to eat food rich in proteins like milk and other dairy products, legumes, beans, poultry, fish, pork and beef.
Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals are needed by the body in small quantity. But these nutrients promote healthy growth and development of your child and are important for proper functioning of the body. The 13 types of vitamins that your child needs are-- vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine/B1, riboflavin/B2, niacin/B3, pantothenic acid/B5, biotin/B7, B6, B12 and folate/B9). The human body contains more than 50 minerals, of these some minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus are essential in children.
Growing children need calcium to form strong bones and teeth. Milk and milk products and to a lesser extent in leafy green vegetables are good source of calcium. Calcium requirement cannot be met by dietary calcium intakes as children approach their teen years. They may need additional supplemental calcium. Iron is an important mineral that helps to form blood. Iron deficiency anemia is a common problem in children in India. Besides formation of blood iron helps in improving concentration and attention as well. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and iron fortified cereals are good source of iron. Iron from vegetarian foods is absorbed better when served with a food rich in vitamin C.
Healthy food choices for children
Include a variety of healthy food to maintain your child’s adequate growth and development. Your child should be taking the family diet or the food that rest of the family eats.
- Grains: Grains are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. At least half the grains that you eat should be whole grains such as oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Fiber helps in digestion, and complex carbohydrates provide energy. Grains are a good source of B vitamins, and minerals. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals can provide many vitamins and minerals. Your child needs about 6-11 servings of cereals
- Green vegetables: Green vegetables are rich source of fiber, vitamins A and C, and several micronutrients like magnesium, potassium. Include a variety of vegetables in your child’s diet like dark green- and orange-colored vegetables, legum...
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