Why eating healthy is important for kids? A child’s body is different from an adult human being; hence their needs are also different. Children are developing and growing continuously and hence their nutrition requirements are different and higher compared to adults. When a child eats a balanced diet it ensures that he / she is getting all the nutrients which will help them to grow and develop optimally. Healthy eating from the formative years helps children maintain healthy body weight, avoid health problems, stabilize their energy, and sharpen their minds. A healthy diet has a very good effect on the children’s mental and emotional well-being. A child who is given healthy food will receive a lifetime bonus of stronger mind and body since he / she is likely to hold on to these habits throughout life. Children can be taught to eat well with the help of a child nutritionist who is aware of the child’s needs and also counsels the child which is the key to convincing the children.
Healthy Food Groups to include in the Child’s Diet: Fruits and vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables are filled with micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which are needed for proper growth and development in children. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables adds color to the plate and provides antioxidants instrumental in helping build a strong immune system. The fiber in the fruits and vegetables will give them a healthy digestive system. Grains (cereal) foods: Whole grains like millets, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, bread, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, etc contain complex carbohydrates and fiber which seem to be lacking in today’s diets. Fiber may help prevent constipation by keeping their bowel regular and also helps to keep the child satisfied after a meal or snack. Refined grain products like cakes, biscuits, white bread, cookies, etc can be very high in sugar and saturated fats and devoid of the much needed nutrients for growth. Nuts: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc provide nutrients like Vitamin E, fiber, protein, B group vitamins, healthy fats, iron and many more. Nuts can be given to children as a quick healthy snack in replacement of snacks like biscuits and chips. However, caution should be exercised while giving whole nuts to the younger children for the risk of choking. Powdered nuts are a great option for them. Milk and milk products: Milk and its products are excellent sources of calcium, an important nutrient for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Besides calcium, milk also contains good quality protein and Vitamin B12 which is an important nutrient for vegetarians. Curd contains good bacteria which is important for gut health. Lean meat, fish, eggs, tofu, seeds, dals, beans: Proteins from dals, legumes, tofu, seeds, eggs, lean meat and fish contain essential amino acids important for growth and development. The amount of protein each child needs depends on his / her age and activity level. Proteins from animal sources are of good quality while plant proteins are incomplete (lacking in one or more essential amino acids) proteins. But, children on a vegetarian diet can also get the essential amino acids by eating a wide range of plant proteins. Children need a source of protein at each meal. Eating a variety of foods from each of these groups is the key to good health in children. There are certain other points to be kept in mind while planning a healthy diet for children: Teenage girls are more prone to iron deficiency due to the loss of blood each month during menstruation. Including leafy greens, beans, lean meat, fish, eggs and dried fruits will help increase the intake of iron in the diet. Iron deficiency anemia can be a leading cause of tiredness, irritability, sluggishness, etc. Keep a check on the total sugar intake. Do not ban sweet foods completely. You could give a healthy twist to their favorite desserts with less sugar by adding dried fruits that are naturally sweet. Also, check the food labels of any packaged foods that you may buy for them to look out for the hidden sources of sugar. Teach children how to read the food labels. Cook more home based meals as restaurant and take away foods are also loaded with salt, sugar and unhealthy fat. Focus on all the food groups rather than on just what the child would want. He / she needs nutrients from all the food groups and no one group provides all the nutrients. Over the past few decades there has been an overall shift in the eating pattern of children. The fast food consumption has increased. Research shows that 75% of children who were eating fast food or outside food are taking in 30-40% of more calories than those who did not eat outside. Also, their intake for fruits, vegetables, milk and grains is very less. This high intake of energy and lack of physical activity is a leading cause of obesity in children today. Also, due exposure to fast foods children now-a-days are more inclined towards unhealthy food and regular intake of these foods could increase their risk to lifestyle diseases at an early age. Giving a healthy diet to children can have a profound effect on their health, make them sharp and keep them in a good mood. Nutritionist in Mumbai and Dietitians in Mumbai can help you change the eating habits of your children without creating a war zone at meal times.