Nutrition for children
Most of the same strategies for healthy eating that work for adults also work for children. Children need the same nutrients as adults but in different amounts. Nutrition for children is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages.
Consider this nutrient-dense diet
- Protein. Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Fruits. Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits rather than fruit juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her servings. Look for canned fruit that says it’s light or packed in its own juice, meaning it’s low in added sugar. Keep in mind that one-quarter cup of dried fruit counts as one cup-equivalent of fruit. When consumed in excess, dried fruits can contribute extra calories.
- Vegetables. Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options lower in sodium.
- Grains. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. Limit refined grains such as white bread, pasta, and rice.
- Dairy. Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
Aim to limit your child’s calories from:
- Added sugar. Limit added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and milk, are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, and others.
- Saturated and trans fats. Limit saturated fats that mainly come from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Look for ways to replace saturated fats with vegetable and nut oils, which provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Healthier fats are also naturally present in olives, nuts, avocados, and seafood. Limit trans fats by avoiding foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil. If you have questions about nutrition for kids or specific concerns about your child’s diet, talk to your child’s doctor or a registered dietitian.
Importance of water
It helps create saliva: Water is a main component of saliva. Saliva also includes small amounts of electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes. It’s essential for breaking down solid food and keeping your mouth healthy. Your body generally produces enough saliva with regular fluid intake. However, your saliva production may decrease as a result of age or certain medications or therapies.
It regulates your body temperature: Staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining your body temperature. Your body loses water through sweat during physical activity and in hot environments. Your sweat keeps your body cool, but your body temperature will rise if you don’t replenish the water you lose. That’s because your body loses electrolytes and plasma when it’s dehydrated.
It protects your tissues, spinal cord, and joints: Water consumption helps lubricate and cushion your joints, spinal cord, and tissues. This will help you enjoy physical activity and lessen the discomfort caused by conditions like arthritis.
It helps prevent constipation: Eating fiber isn’t the only way to prevent constipation. It’s also important to maintain your water intake so your bowel movements contain enough water. If you don’t consume enough water, magnesium, and fiber, you may be more likely to experience constipation. If you’re already constipated, you may find that drinking carbonated water as well as plain water can help ease your symptoms.
It helps with nutrient absorption: In addition to helping with food breakdown, water also helps dissolve vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from your food. It then delivers these vitamin components to the rest of your body for use.
What if my baby is a picky eater?
Picky eating is often the norm for toddlers. After the rapid growth of infancy, when babies usually triple in weight, a toddler’s growth rate and appetite tend to slow down. Toddlers also are beginning to develop food preferences, a fickle process. A toddler’s favorite food one day may hit the floor the next, or a snubbed food might suddenly become the one he or she can’t get enough of. For weeks, they may eat 1 or 2 preferred foods and nothing else.
Try not to get frustrated by this typical toddler behavior. Just make healthy food choices available and know that, with time, your child’s appetite and eating behaviors will level out.
Why is nutrition so important in children?
Babies and children are less likely to suffer from malnutrition compared to adults. There are many reasons for this.
Low nutrient reserves: Newborns have low fat and protein reserves. The younger your child, the less energy she will have. This means that they can only starve for a short time.
High nutrition for growth: The nutrition needs of children from an early age are very high. This is due to its rapid growth during this period. By the time your baby is 4 months old, she is used to a 30% increase in her nutrient intake. At one year of age, it drops to 5%.
Rapid development in the nervous system: During the last four months of pregnancy and the first two years of life, your baby’s brain grows rapidly. During this time, connections are formed between nerve cells in the brain. Good nutrition is important to ensure that this happens correctly.
What nutrients do children need?
Protein helps a child’s body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen. Foods that contain high levels of protein include:
- Dairy products
While the latest diet trend is to “cut the carbs,” carbohydrates are actually the body’s most important source of energy. They help a child’s body to use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Carbohydrates come in several different forms (sugars, starches, and fiber), but kids should be eating more of the starches and fibers and less of the sugar. Foods that contain high levels of carbohydrates include:
Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored in a child’s body. They are also important in helping the body to properly use some of the other nutrients it needs. Foods that contain high levels of fats include:
- Whole-milk dairy products
- Cooking oils
Calcium is essential in helping to build a child’s healthy bones and teeth. It’s also important for blood clotting and for nerve, muscle, and heart function. Foods that contain high levels of calcium include:
- Ice cream
- Egg yolks
Signs and symptoms of a poor diet
Symptoms of a poor diet include:
- Underweight, overweight, or those arrears.
- Changes in constipation or bowel habits.
- Pale or lazy.
- Dental caries.
- Poor physical growth.
In some children, a poor diet may be associated with:
- Behavior problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Problems with emotional and mental development.
- Concentration or difficulty in school.
- Children 12 months and older can eat and enjoy healthy meals and times with the rest of the family.
- If necessary, modify the shape of the foods you eat to suit your child’s age (for example, cut the meat into small pieces or serve small pieces of pasta that your child can easily eat).
- This is relevant or frustrating when your child often rejects food. Remember that children do not grow in their second year as fast as they did in their first year. That means your appetite is not that big.
- Even young children have the ability to express what they like and what they don’t like. You are responsible for making your baby eat, feed, and make mealtime enjoyable. How much they eat or not is your child’s responsibility. Keep in mind that small children’s stomachs need small amounts of food (5 to 6 times a day).