Nutrition plays a major role to shape our health. The correct approach towards food habits in the growing years goes a long way in determining the health of an individual during adulthood and old age.

Childhood to adolescence is where a person grows physically and develops mentally and emotionally, and a nutrient-rich diet supports this growth and development. A healthy diet helps the child to achieve its full growth potential.

What are the factors that affect the healthy food intake of a child?

  • Exposure to a variety of healthy foods – A child is completely dependent on their parents or caretakers for food. They can have a particular vegetable or a fruit or any other foodstuff only if it is given to them.
  • Taste and Presentation – The way the food is cooked and served determines a lot whether the child will choose or reject it. The same vegetable can be prepared in numerous ways depending on what the child likes the most. Children are often attracted to fancy-looking foods. Whether it is making smileys with chutneys, rolling out the roti and cutting fruits in different shapes, or masking the desired vegetable in a way that a child doesn’t come to know, is something we all have done. When it comes to food, the creative side of every mother/ father comes alive at its full potential”.
  • Being Consistent – If children reject certain food, doesn’t mean they don’t like it. Try being consistent & don’t give up. It might take 10 to 15 times for a toddler to develop a taste for a new food item.
  • Food choices – Despite trying everything, there are kids who are extremely picky with their food & this narrows down the range of food they can consume.
  • Allergies – Some children are allergic to certain foods. For example, children who are lactose intolerant are unable to consume normal cow/buffalo milk. There are children who are allergic to gram flour, peanuts, soy, etc. Hence, allergies are one major cause of restricted food intake.

 

Consequences of Poor / Inadequate Nutrition
Nutritional deficiencies make the child vulnerable to many diseases and affect their health in the longer run.

Malnutrition / Nutritional deficiencies
You might be feeding your little one enough, but “It is not how much they eat but what do they eat”? When the meals lack enough quantity of food and nutrients, it may cause malnutrition in children. Excess consumption of aerated drinks, refined flours, bakery items, etc also causes nutritional deficiencies as they provide empty calories.

Obesity
Feeding your junior with calorie-loaded & nutrient-deficient meals will lead to early obesity. According to a recent study, India has 14.4 obese children, which is the 2nd largest in the world.

Impaired Growth
An unbalanced diet is one of the primary reasons for impaired growth and development in children. Impaired growth or stunting is not only limited to height-to-age problems, but it also leads to weight gains at the later stage, high risk of chronic diseases, and makes the child prone to degenerative diseases.

Dental Caries
Sweets, aerated drinks, bakery items, and foods high in sugar along with unhygienic dental practices are the leading reasons for tooth cavities in children.

Poor Cognitive Skills & Learning Disabilities
Healthy cognitive development is impacted by various factors, including nutrition. Lack of iron, iodine, and DHA can impair cognitive and motor development. Poor nutrition may reduce a child's emotional responses, impair neural development, and lower their IQ.

Bone Deformities
Calcium, Vitamin D along with other nutrients are very important to maintain the skeletal mass and bone mineral density. Improper diet makes the child prone to having weak bones, fractures, rickets, etc. In the longer run, such children are prone to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis. They are also prone to fall fractures.

What should be included in your child`s daily diet to provide adequate nutrition?

Fruits
Fruits are high in fiber, low in fats, and rich source of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cut them in different shapes or make a fruit salad to make it more appealing to the child.

Veggies
Vegetables provide your kids with energy, vitamins, antioxidants, proteins, and more. You can also stuff them in parathas, make veg rolls or make a tempting salad for variety apart from the regular vegetable preparations.

Dairy Products
Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, protein & other vitamins and minerals. They are beneficial for bone health and overall growth.

Milk
You can add some natural flavors like turmeric, cardamom, saffron to the milk or make milkshakes like dry fruit or fruit milkshake.

Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese serves as a good snack option for kids. One can stir fry, make a salad, have it raw or have it as a main course dish.

Yogurt or Curd
Curd/Yoghurt is a natural source of probiotics and works wonders for gut health. It helps improve digestion and gives a cooling effect to the body. Curd can be had in its natural form or flavored or made into smoothies.

Nuts, dry fruits, and oilseeds
Nuts, dry fruits, and oilseeds are rich in vitamins, minerals & essential fatty acids. They provide energy and boost immunity. They are power-packed with antioxidants, fiber and are rich in omega fatty acids like DHA which is crucial for brain development in the growing years. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dry dates, cashews, raisins, dried figs, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds can all be included in limited quantities in your child`s daily diet.

Cereals and Millets
Cereals and millets provide for maximum energy in a daily diet as they are rich in carbohydrates. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals & fiber. Cereals like ragi, rajgira are rich sources of calcium. One can make rotis or porridges from cereals. Multigrain roti is a good addition to a child`s diet.

Pulses
Pulses are a great source of energy and protein. One can make them the regular way as dals or can also make a sprouts salad. Mixed pulses can be roasted and ground into a powder and made in the form of dosa or can even be added to chutneys. A combination of cereal and pulses provides for a complete amino acid profile which increases the biological value of the protein further. Khichdi for example is a nutritious and good protein meal in itself.

Remember, no single food has got all the nutrients. Hence, including variety in all the above food groups is extremely important to meet the desired nutrient intake.

What are the benefits of a Nutritious diet?

  • Healthy Growth and Development
  • Balanced Bodyweight
  • Stronger Immune Functions
  • Better Brain Health
  • Strong Bones and Teeth
  • Low Risk of Chronic Diseases
  • Low risk of degenerative diseases in the longer run
  • Better focus and concentration
  • Better mental health

What are multivitamins and is it necessary for a child to take them or any other health supplement?

Multivitamins contain a full profile of vitamins and minerals which help bridge the nutritional gaps in a child`s daily diet. They are available in the form of pills, gummies, energy mixes, or syrups. Additional supplements do not have to be mandatory if your junior gets a nutrient-rich diet daily. But, Kids are a tiny pot of mischief, and their food choices also change in a snap. Hence, despite all your grind, their meals may miss out on some essential nutrients. So at times, when the diet is not able to fulfill the child`s nutritional requirement, it becomes important to supplement them with a multivitamin. They not only bridge the nutritional gaps but also improve overall health, support the growth and development of the child, and also enhance immunity. A doctor may recommend a calcium supplement if there is a calcium deficiency in the child. Likewise, if the diet is really poor, a multivitamin may be recommended. Omega supplements are often advised for cognitive development. 

Being a parent is a full-time job, and we understand you wish nothing but the best for your junior's health. So indulging in a regular conversation with your little one and knowing their preferences will help you make your child achieve optimal nutritional status.

Pure Nutrition wishes all the munchkins out there a very “HAPPY CHILDREN`S DAY AND A HAPPY, HEALTHY CHILDHOOD!”