DIET AND NUTRITION IN CHILDHOOD

The period of 1 year to puberty is the time of significant growth in terms of social cognitive and emotional areas. The physical growth may be less remarkable but continue to proceed steadily. Because children are growing and developing teeth, muscles and blood , they need more nutritious foods and are at more risk of becoming malnourished as a result of poor appetite and wrong selection of foods.

Nutrients need of children

The nutrient need of children are determined on the basis of their age , rate of growth and activities. For instance the dietary requirement of preschool children differ from school going children. They require high energy and nutrient dense foods in small frequent meals. School going children over the age of five should eat healthy, varied diet along with regular physical activity in order to maintain a healthy body weight.

  • The dietary energy of children should be sufficient enough to meet the requirements and spare proteins from being used for energy. The recommended proportion of energy is 50-60 % from carbohydrates, 25 -30% from fats and 10-15% from proteins.
  • Minerals and vitamins are essential for normal growth and development. Children between the age of 1-3 are at high risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia. Foods rich in iron should be introduced at this age. Calcium is essential for bone development and vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption. Zinc deficiency has also been reported in preschool and school going children which results in growth failure, poor appetite and difficulty in wound healing.

Dietary guidelines for adequate diet

Food is not just providing nutrients for growth and maintenance of the body, it also helps in the development of feeding skills and dietary habits. Following are some basic guidelines in order to ensure adequate diet and providing positive healthy eating patterns for future.

Breakfast

Experimental studies of healthy children have shown that learning difficulties have been observed more in children who fasted overnight and skipped breakfast than those who had a regular breakfast before going to school. A healthy breakfast should consist of a portion of proteins, cereals and fruits or vegetables.

Examples

  1. An oatmeal with milk topped with fruits and nuts.
  2. An egg with a slice of bread , a fruit and a cup of milk.

Snacks

Snacks such as crisps, biscuits and chocolates should be consumed infrequently and not on regular basis. Fruits , yogurts, sandwiches with a healthy filling such as egg, kebabs or vegetables should be encouraged. Foods rich in fats and sugars should be given less often or as a treat.

Lunch and dinner

For children lunch time or dinner is of great significance. Focus on variety of vegetables, wholegrain breads and pastas in the mealtime. A diet should be low in salt as it contributes to high blood pressure later in life.

Lunch or dinner should be a presented as a proper family meal as it is the primary influence in the development of food habits.

Nutritional concerns in children

  • Obesity is a common problem which can lead to chronic diseases in later life. The main reason for obesity are increase consumption of fast foods and sugar with little or no physical activities. A change in dietary habits and increase in physical activities is essential in order to prevent obesity among children.
  • Iron deficiency is one of the most common disorder in children. Good dietary sources such as mutton, beef, and fish should be included in diet.
  • Underweight or weight loss in children is caused as a result of poor appetite, medications or lack of simple food.
  • Dental caries may effect children who drink sweetened milk from bottles, as well as consume foods rich in sugars . Desserts and sweets should be given along with meals to reduce their affects on teeth.
  • Food allergies are mostly observed in children with positive family history of allergies. Care should be given to responses of children after certain foods.

Vitamins and minerals supplements

Vitamin and minerals supplements are usually not recommended as long as the needs are fulfilled from diet . However in certain situations it becomes necessary for children to be supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals. This include

  • Children belonging to low socioeconomic groups.
  • Children with poor eating habits, anorexia and poor appetite.
  • Children consuming strict vegetarian diets.

By

Aliya Waqas

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