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Nutritional Needs of Children

Dr Shikha Sharma

 

Nutrition has a major effect on health. Nutrition refers to the availability of energy and nutrients to the body’s cells in relation to body requirements. Adequate food in quantity and quality is very important for a growing child, especially in the first 5 years when the child is growing rapidly, as this period is considered as very crucial for later stages..

Due to rapid transition in economy and lifestyle, children prefer to have handy, attractive and tasty food rather than the nutritious foods. So, it is the prime responsibility of the mother to serve her child nutritious food.

The nutritional needs of children vary with age and sex. The requirement of nutrients is always high in boys as compared to the girls. The basic nutrients, which should always be included in children’s diet, are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Carbohydrates are important to provide energy to the child’s growing body. Include whole cereals, breads, chapattis to meet the caloric requirement of the child.
  • Proteins help in tissue building. The daily protein requirement of the body is 1-1.5 gms of body weight, irrespective of the genders. Good sources of proteins are pulses and legumes, milk and its products, eggs, fish, chicken and other non-vegetarian foods.
  • Fats are very important as they provide padding to the body. Prefer unsaturated fats in the food rather than going for saturated foods. Unsaturated fats can be included in the food by opting for vegetable oils, nuts like almonds, walnuts, fish oils etc over ghee, butter, cheese.
  • Vitamins and minerals in the daily diet of the child can be included as fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also advised to have two serving of fruits daily. Children generally resist green vegetables, but including them in soups, juices or stuffing them in sandwiches can really help here. Vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, radish, and lettuce can be used to make attractive salads for children. Minerals like iron, calcium, and phosphorus are really very important for normal growth of children.
  • Fruits also provide soluble fibre, which helps to curb the hunger and is a healthy munching option for children.
  • Iron is an integral part of blood, which can be naturally obtained by consuming green leafy vegetables, liver, nuts and whole cereals.
  • Calcium helps in strengthening of bones and teeth. It prevents rickets and other bone related problems. Milk is a rich source of calcium and should also be included in the daily menu.
Family and peer group play a major role in shaping the eating habits of the children. The knowledge, attitude and practices of the family regarding food have a great impact on children as children imitate their elders. Children are very much influenced by the colourful advertisement of food products these days, and tend to pick up the unhealthy eatables. Parents and other elders of the family can follow a healthy and nutritious routine to make their children follow the same.


  
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