What Should Be Right Nutrition & Diet for Child ?
Created by Gaurima Updated on Mar 09, 2021
This is part of Parent's Day Workshop Day 3: Right nutrition and diet for your child. "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - La Rochefoucauld
Feeding children with nutritious food and inculcating healthy eating habits in them is the topmost priority for almost all parents. However, parents are finding promoting healthy eating with their children a big challenge. Many times parents have to helplessly watch their child being pulled towards unhealthy eating options, which include their all-time favorite varieties of junk foods, processed foods, eatables, and drinks containing high sugar content to enlist a few. No wonder, health experts fear obesity as a new-gen epidemic. [Expert's live-chat: How Much Sugar is too Much For Your Toddler?]
With an intention to serve parents by spreading awareness around the core issues concerning healthy eating, the importance of role-modeling in inculcating good food habits and physical fitness in children, Parentune, organized this workshop - on "Right nutrition and diet for your child" - on this Parent's day. This workshop was conducted by Parentune. Nutrition+ Wellness expert Mrs.Tanuja Sodhi and Parentune Parenting expert Mrs. Bhavna Awasthy.
Why a Healthy Diet Is Important for Your Child?
Those parents who missed the action may go through this blog to grab their chunk of healthy food for thought ;) I mean, some handy tips to make your kids pick healthy food as a choice. The experts started by sharing the common food issues that parents are grappling vis-a-vis their children (of ages 1 to 12). They referred to various 'Parent Talks' (parent's queries on Parentune's website) about parents' struggle with their kids over healthy eating. [Check - Daily Meal Plan for 4 Years Child]
To add some zing to the show, experts called for parent volunteers for two tasks :
Task 1: Role-play - 2 parents were asked to enact the roles of a mom and a 4-year-old. The parents wonderfully portrayed the mom and a 4-year-old, fussy eater. Mother tries several healthy food options to feed the child but the child shows the least interest in eating and does everything to resist food.
Parent's reflections - Many parents could identify themselves with the enacted situation and echoed the common concern that meal time is struggle time as kids don't wish to have regular food. They sometimes either resist food altogether or many times fancy the (not so healthy) food items marketed through the media.
A parent summed up, "my 2-year-old child refuses food at the very sight of it and no reasoning works after that, I just choose to force feed as I can't think of any better option."
Experts' Suggestions - Experts endorsed that urban parents are facing feeding issues with their children so much so that it is causing a lot of stress to parents. In many cases, force-feeding is adopted to make sure that kids get some nutrition. However, it complicates the problem further as many children associate negative experiences around eating and choose to resist food altogether.
Task 2: Making a Diet-plan - A group of 4 parents was asked to make a diet plan of a 3-year-old child keeping in mind the child's activity level and age. They were provided with a list of food items as options. Parents made a well-calculated diet plan which included various healthy food items meeting the nutritional demands decently.
Parents' take - Parents acknowledged that, while they want to feed their children healthy and nutritious food, however, it's easier said than done because of various reasons like lack of time, knowledge and creative ideas around healthy feeding. [Explore: How to Make Child's Meal Plan Interesting?]
Experts' Suggestion - Experts explained the nutritive value of each food choice in terms of calories and components like protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. They elaborated on the core issue of the right diet.
Experts' Extract on Right Nutrition & Diet
Some key points extracted from the experts' on the right nutrition and diet:
- Our bodies need calories to function. Calories should be derived from foods containing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
- Besides carbohydrates, proteins and fats other basic nutrients needed by the body includes various vitamins and minerals
- The calorie needs vary in children and it depends on factors such as age, gender and the amount of physical activity that a child does. So an active child may need more calories than a child who spends more time doing sedentary activities.
- Research suggests that around 60 % of the diet should be derived from carbohydrates rich food groups. These include grains like wheat, rice, oats and more. Including whole grains and fiber-rich carbohydrates in the diet is nutritionally better.
- Vegetables and fruits form the next major component. it is ideal to include maximum variety. Ideally, 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2 - 4 servings of fruits should be included in the daily diet of a child.
- Proteins are building blocks of the body hence children need them in abundance. Protein-rich foods include Milk and milk products, eggs, nuts, pulses, fish and meat.
- Good fats are also essential for growing kids. fats obtained from fish, olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils are good.
- Water, as it is the best health drink and children, should be encouraged to consume as much as possible in a day.
- Fresh fruit juices made at home are better than high sugar canned juices and soft drinks as they kill appetite.
- Diet of a child should be planned according to the weight of the child: for overweight children, focusing on a nutritive diet without adding calories while for underweight children focusing on calorie dense nutritive diet is ideal.
How to Build a Good Attitude about Food?
- All children follow parents and that is why it is crucial for parents to be an effective role-model who promotes healthy eating and staying active. Parents may avoid multitasking on the dinner table. Doing things like watching T.V, checking e-mails, talking over the phone may during meal times lead to mindless eating since children as well as adults do not register when they are full leading to mindless eating and weight-related issues as a consequence. Moreover, we may not appreciate the look, taste, and texture of food while multitasking. When children see parents consistently enjoying healthy food sooner or later they will too.
- Parent's may avoid putting pressure on children to clean up the plate. Children might feel overwhelmed by the size of the serving. Giving small serving at a time and second serving when they ask for it.
- Positive strokes by parents may go a long way in boosting healthy eating, so abundantly acknowledge and appreciate when they finish.
- Set achievable targets before the act like eating or behavior in the market place and then pad it with appreciation and acknowledgments for effective results.
- Be flexible and always justify your actions to your child. For example when you say no to noodles then explain. Banning unhealthy food may be too radical so being flexible and letting them have their choice of junk food in moderation may promote better understanding and compliance.
- Force feeding may lead to food avoidance so it could be avoided.
- Engaging children in the kitchen may develop their awareness around healthy food and they also might appreciate the food because of the effort that goes in the making
- Avoiding force feeding and offering healthy (calculated) choices may do wonders.
- It may help if parents think like a child to understand them well. It's natural for a child to fancy food like pizza. A parent may choose to pleasantly surprise the child by making pizza role at home that may be something like steamed vegetables tossed in cheese and oregano rolled in a roti :)
How to Introduce Food to First-time Eaters?
How to introduce food to first-time eaters and how to make toddlers eat well? Read this...
- Parents may introduce food one by one and watch for a day for any allergic reaction if any.
- As introducing food to toddlers is a transition time for them so resistance is normal. Patience is the key as on some days a toddler will avoid food completely and eat well on some days.
- Make mealtime special so that the child associate positive experiences with having food and avoiding force-feeding may help
- Every bite counts for small children so, feeding even a few spoons of nutrients and calorie dense food helps
- Parents may watch the child preference towards sweet or salty and plan accordingly.
- Providing finger-foods to toddlers may help, as it is attractive to chew and easy to handle. Toddlers may like to fiddle and experiment with food, parent's may allow that.
- Parents may plan for small meals every 2 to 3 hours for toddlers
- Parents may introduce food in yummy and visually appealing varieties and then choose to transition slowly to expand to more healthier options
- Notice the pattern. For a few days they might like to have some particular food item a lot and then they suddenly may not like to have it
- Parents may slowly and slowly introduce more varieties of foods like fruits and vegetables in various forms
- Parents are generally keen to make their toddler chubby, however, a fat child is not a healthy child. Fat child faces the danger of becoming obese and hence vulnerable to a host of diseases in the future.
Experts' Tips to Establish Healthy Eating in Children at Home:
Let it be a bonding time with no other distractions. Always respects the child's mealtime. Read this
- Think like a child: to understand our children we have to think like them and only then can we connect and appreciate them
- Patience is the key to achieving success with picky eaters.
- Ensure that your child never skips breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day.
- Serve 5 - 6 small meals per day rather than 3 big meals.
- Ensure a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats and enough fiber in the meals.
- Add variety - which means variety in fruits, vegetables, milk products etc. as different foods have a different set of nutrients
- Be a role Model. Children mimic parents, so eat healthy to set an example.
The workshop ended on a note that nothing can stop a parent to inculcate values around healthy eating in the child except their own lack of enthusiasm, creativity and most importantly patience to enjoy the process.