How can I Prepare a Healthy Diet for My Child?
A balanced diet is one of the most important aspects that can directly impact the growth of a child, making it extremely vital to ensure that your child gets the appropriate amount of nutrition via a well-balanced diet!
One of the most essential things you can do as a parent is to assist your children to develop healthy eating habits. Children require a diet that includes items from all three food groups: fruits and vegetables, whole-grain goods, and protein meals.
HOW MANY MEALS DO CHILDREN NEED?
Children require three meals and one to three snacks each day (morning, afternoon, and possibly before bed). Snacking on healthy foods is equally as important as eating healthy meals.
Whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and meats, as well as home-cooked meals, are recommended by most pediatric nutrition experts.
WHAT SHOULD I DO TO INCULCATE HEALTHY EATING HABITS IN MY CHILD?
As a parent it becomes an utmost priority to help your child imbibe a healthy eating pattern, here are a few suggestions:
- Establish consistent meal and snack times for the entire family. Eat with your children and share mealtimes.
- At mealtimes, provide a range of foods from all dietary categories.
- Make food accessible in ways they can handle it. To prevent choking in younger children, chop food into pieces or mash it.
- Assist your youngsters in learning to eat independently with a spoon or cup.
- Involve your child in food preparation and table etiquette at an appropriate age.
- Avoid bribing with dessert. Serve fruit cups or yogurt as healthy dessert options.
- Demonstrate to your child how to read labels to aid with food selection.
- Avoiding fast food places teaches your children the value of spending quality time with their families while eating nutritious home-cooked meals.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN NUTRIENTS REQUIRED IN A CHILD’S DIET?
A child’s diet must be well-balanced involving a variety of foods that are nutrient-dense.
Consider the following nutrient-rich foods:
- Protein– Seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds are all good choices.
- Fruits– Instead of fruit juice, encourage your youngster to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits. If your youngster drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice with no added sugars and keep the servings to a minimum.
Look for canned fruit that says “light” or “packed in its own juice,” which means it has less sugar added. Keep in mind that a quarter cup of dried fruit is equivalent to one cup of fresh fruit. Dried fruits can add extra calories if consumed in excess.
- Grains– Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oats, popcorn, quinoa, and brown or wild rice, are also good choices. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice should be avoided.
- Dairy– Encourage your child to consume low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
- Vegetables– Serve a variety of vegetables, whether fresh, canned, frozen, or dry. Each week, try to include a variety of vegetables, such as dark green, red, and orange, beans and peas, starchy, and others.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM CALORIE REQUIREMENT FOR A CHILD AGED 2-18?
The above requirement is subject to growth and activity level.
Limit your child’s intake of calories from the following sources:
- Extra added sugars– Added sugar should be kept to a minimum. Sugars found naturally in fruits and milk are not considered added sugars. Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, and a variety of other sugars are examples of added sugars. Choose sugar-free cereals. Soda, sports and energy drinks, and other sugary drinks should be avoided.
- Saturated fats– limit saturated fats which primarily originate from animal sources of food including red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy items. Look for strategies to substitute saturated fats with essential fatty acids and vitamin E-rich vegetable and nut oils. Olives, almonds, avocados, and shellfish all contain healthy fats naturally. Avoid meals that contain partially hydrogenated oil to cut down on trans fats.
- Excess sodium– Instead of chips and cookies, encourage your child to munch on fruits and vegetables. Look for sodium-free products on nutrition labels. Processed meats, like sausages, and salamies, are high in fat, sodium (salt), and nitrates, and should be avoided (food preservatives).
WHAT IF MY CHILD REFUSES TO EAT CERTAIN FOODS?
If your youngster declines a food item or meal, don’t be concerned. Don’t give them something extra to eat in between meals only to get them to eat. They’ll eat better the next time they eat, given the increased appetite build.
If your youngster doesn’t seem to be eating enough, don’t be concerned. They’re probably getting what they need if their weight and size are on track. Just make sure your child eats a range of meals from all food groups to ensure they get the nutrients they need. At frequent appointments, your child’s doctor will monitor their growth and notify you if there are any issues or concerns regarding their nutritional intake.
Children’s appetite fluctuates from day to day, and even from meal to meal, they must eat little amounts of food frequently throughout the day due to their small stomachs. Children understand how much food they require and will consume the required amount, so there is no serious cause for concern if your child is not eating enough or is refusing certain foods.
Ensuring the right amount of nutrients are provided in the daily meals is key to preparing a healthy diet for your child! Consult a pediatric nutritionist at the nearest maternity & child care hospital for a comprehensive understanding of your child’s dietary requirements.