What is a healthy diet for a child? Should junk food be avoided? Is milk good or bad? These are just a few confusing questions for parents.
Broadly speaking a healthy diet for children must include sufficient nutrients for them to grow at the right pace and to provide energy.
Proteins, minerals, fat, vitamins and fibre are all essential elements of a healthy balanced diet. Nutrient needs of a child may vary according to age and amounts of physical activity.
The average daily calorie count for children of varied age groups should be:
0 to 5 months – 650 calories
5 to 12 months – 850 calories
1 to 3 years – 1300 calories
7 to 10 years – 2000 calories
Increase calorie intake
Some children may need a boost of calories to match their growth spurt. But one has to do it right. Avoid junk foods such as candy, which have empty calories and are low in protein. High calorie, high nutrients and high protein foods will add both quality to meals and quantity to calories.
For instance while children love jelly, its only poor quality protein. So when you make jelly, add fruit juice instead of required quantity of water to boost nutrition.
Keep a calcium count
During childhood and adolescence, the body uses the mineral calcium to build strong bones, a process that is completed only by the end of the teen years. To raise calcium levels, add cheddar in an omelets, increase the intake of fresh fruit, tofu, serve broccoli with cream cheese as an add-on during a meal. Offer whole grain crackers with low fat cheese, milk shakes, salads and cereals.
Check salt intake
Experts warn parents that feeding salty foods make them susceptible to high blood pressure. Excess salt causes the body to retain more fluid, increasing blood volume over time and causing hypertension. Salt intake should be limited to:
5 grams for children between 7 – 14 years
2 grams for children between 1 – 6 years
No salt for babies below 1
Increase fruits and vegetables
Encourage your child to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of two fruits and five vegetables are vital for your child. Entice your child to eat healthy by making vegetables and fruit look great on the plate. Combine different colored fruits and vegetables, or serve them on a special plate.
Don’t cut fats
Fats have been getting a lot of bad publicity in recent years. However, certain kinds of fats are actually good for your child and must be a part of a healthy diet. Fats are essential for growth and development. For children below 2 years fats should not be restricted, for ages 4-18 years the recommendations are about 25-35% of calories.