Good nutrition is critical necessity for growing children not only to sustain life but to ensure their proper growth and development and has impact on physical, mental and social development for their entire lifespan.
Nutritional requirement and Nutrition transition is closely linked with rate of growth and development of children right from birth to 18 years of age.
The higher the rate of growth and development, higher will be nutrient requirements and faster should be nutrition transition in order to ensure optimal nutrition status.
Birth to 2 years and 10 -18 years of age (pre – adolescent and adolescent age) are defined as critical points due to fastest rate of growth and development. Growth spurt starts at about 10 – 12 years in girls and 2 years later in boys.
Eating Tips for Different Age Group
Children have special requirement
AGE 1 TO 2 YEARS
- Food hygiene should be maintained.
- Young children have small appetite therefore three small meals with two snacks are usually required.
- Cooked carrot cubes, potato wedges should be included as these can be easily eaten by children themselves.
- Use of extra Salt and Sugar should be avoided.
- Children should not be force-feed under any circumstances. Alternative foods from the same food family, with different textures and different combination may work better, so give them a try.
- New food items can be introduced to babies one by one in a time span of few days between each item
- One dish should be offered at one time multiple flavours can confuse babies.
- In case child is suffering from any problem like diarrhoea/vomiting, it is crucial to modify the diet and seek medical advice. There is no reason to stop food and starve the child.
AGE 2 + TO 5 YEARS
- Kids should be imparted the habit of having the breakfast from the early days of childhood.
- Force-feeding should be avoided. Respect your child’s hunger and fullness signals.
- Sugar and related products should be minimal.
- Tastes developed at this stage will stay on for life so it is better to provide diverse ranges of foodstuffs as possible.
- Small meal pattern i.e. 3 meals 2 snacks should be followed for preschool children’s. Snacks play the important role of covering gaps in nutrient intake.
- Habit of developing proper hygiene practice is very important like washing hands etc.
- Water is best offered after a meal. Avoid sweet beverages, fruit drinks and soft drinks
- Nutritional requirement increases slightly during this age group. A small increase in cereal, legume and fat serving is all that is needs to meet the requirement.
AGE 5 + to 10 YEARS
- Try to be a good role model of your children as during this age group they keenly watch the food habits of their family member.
- Eating a healthy breakfast before starting the school day is linked to improved concentration, increased energy, a higher intake of vitamins and minerals, and even a healthier body weight.
- For better iron absorption VIT C rich foods should also be served along with iron rich vegetables. Example: spinach with lemon dressing/lemonade.
- Watching TV while eating is a bad habit that does more harm than good. Avoid it.
- It’s always better to prepare packed lunch/tiffin-box menus of your children in consultation with them.
- Even involve your child in fruits and vegetable shopping and let them try their hands with little bit of cooking like making sandwiches, shakes as this will increase their interest in the food and also they will learn the hygiene.
- Instead of juice, milk and water are healthier ways to help kids hydrate.
AGE 10 + to 19 YEARS
- One hour of physical activity daily that kids enjoy has to be inbuilt into their busy routines.
- Variety of home based foods should be preferred over commercial foods for children. Home based foods have natural goodness of fibre, sodium and other nutrients.
- Fish, lentils, beans, chicken, tofu, meat, nuts, seeds, eggs, unsweetened milk and milk products, and fortified soy beverage are all high protein foods. Including a serving of these foods at most meals and snacks will help meet protein needs
- Having breakfast daily is important as it replenishes your supply of glucose and provides other essential nutrients to keep you energetic throughout the day. NOTE: Don’t skip lunch or dinner either.
- In the adolescent age it’s not required to take 5-6 times meal plan, 3-4 times is good enough as their diet increases and have busy life involving sports and education.
- Though it is always good to have meals on set timings but due to time limitations it is acceptable teens need to swap their meals with snacks or vice versa.
- Though too much sugar is not suggested at any age but desserts up to a limited quantity can be added in few meals.