Children who eat a balanced diet lay the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle and this further lowers the risk of long term health issues. Childhood is the most critical time for growth as well as for development of the mind and to fight infections. So, it is very essential that the children get a good dose of energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is very important to follow that hygienic practices are followed while preparing and feeding the complementary food to the child; otherwise, it might lead to diarrhoea. A well formulated balanced diet is necessary for children and adolescents to achieve optimum growth and boost their immunity. Balanced Diet, playing outdoors, physical activities of child are essential for optimum body composition and to reduce the risk of diet related chronic conditions later in life and to prevent any sort of vitamin deficiency. Adolescence has various other factors attached to it: rapid increase in height and weight, hormonal changes and mood swings.
Development of bone mass is going on during this period so inclusion of dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt) and vegetables like spinach, broccoli and celery which are rich in calcium is a must.
Children require good amount of carbohydrates and fats for energy. Therefore, it is very essential to give them a daily intake of energy rich foods as whole grains (wheat, brown rice), nuts, vegetable oils, vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits like banana.
In case of children, proteins are essentials for muscle building, repair and growth and building antibodies. So give them diet which has meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.
A child needs vitamins for the body to function properly and to boost the immune system. A variety of fruits and vegetables of different colours should be added in child’s food. Vitamin A is essential for vision and a deficiency of the same can lead to night blindness (difficulty in seeing in night). Dark green leafy vegetables, yellow, orange coloured vegetables and fruits (such as carrots, papaya, mangoes) are good sources of Vitamin A.
Vitamin D helps in bone growth and development and it is essential for absorption of calcium. Children get most of their Vitamin D from sunlight and a small amount from some food items like (fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, cheese and egg yolks).
Teenage girls experience more physiological changes and psychological stress than boys because of onset of menarche (onset of menstruation) .Therefore, teenage girls should eat diet which is rich in both vitamins as well as minerals to prevent anemia.
Now a days, children are more inclined towards junk food but it is very important to motivate your kids in teenage to eat nutrition rich foods. Many children have poor eating habits, which can lead to various long-term health complications, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. As a parent, keep making frequent changes in their menu to avoid boredom of eating the same food every day. Adolescence is the most vulnerable stage for developing bad food habits as well as bad habits like smoking, chewing tobacco or drinking alcohol. These should be avoided. In addition to consumption of a nutritious well balanced diet, appropriate lifestyle practices and involvement in outdoor activities such as games/sports should be encouraged among children as well as adolescents. Regular physical exercises increase strength and stamina, and are necessary for good health and well being.
Points to Remember:
- Take extra care in feeding infants and include soft cooked vegetables and seasonal fruits.
- Give plenty of milk and milk products to children and adolescents as calcium is needed for growth and bone development.
- Encourage your child for outdoor activities and promote appropriate lifestyle practices like washing your hands before meals, brushing your teeth twice a day, hygiene practices to name a few.
- Avoid overeating during a single meal. Eat at frequent intervals.
- Exposure to sunlight helps maintains vitamin D which helps in calcium absorption.
- Never starve the child. Feed energy-rich cereals-pulse diet with milk and mashed vegetables.
- Give plenty of fluids during illness. A child needs to eat more during and after episodes of infections to maintain proper nutritional status.
- Use oral rehydration solution (ORS) along with zinc tablet to prevent and control dehydration during diarrhea episodes.
- Drink 2-2.5 liters of water to hydrate the body. It is preferred to have water/buttermilk/lassi/fruit juices/coconut water over soft drinks and other packaged drinks.