Nutrition and Eating Habits in the formative years can have a significant impact on health as the child grows. General food habits will be formed in these years and thus how, what and how much we feed our kids becomes utmost importance. From the second year onwards, though the child does not grow as rapidly as in the first year, poor nutrition may result in poor motor, physical and cognitive development, and issues like constipation, iron deficiency anaemia, iodine deficiency, etc.
Also, children belonging to different age groups have different nutritional requirements. For example, a 5-year-old child’s nutrition requirement is completely different from an infants nutrition requirements. Usually, most parents have little knowledge of the dietary requirements of their children.
There are some tips to help parents fulfill the nutritional requirements of children aged 0–5 years mentioned below.
Eating Habits: Nutritional Requirements
Nutritional requirements for 0–6 months
Until babies are 4–5 months old, breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing nutrition. Not only does breast milk fulfil their nutritional requirement but also boosts their immunity. Any transition to other sources of nutrition should begin only after a baby is 6 months old.
Nutritional requirements for 6–12 months
Although babies can be breastfed until they are 12 months old, breast milk can be supplemented with pure fruit juices by the time they are 6 months old. Also, it is better to feed a 6-month-old baby from a cup instead of a bottle.
Eating Habits: Nutritional requirements for 1–5 year old children
- Infants and young children can self-regulate the amount of calories they need. Therefore, consider demand feeding and avoid overfeeding young children.
- While offering foods to children, parents should consider its overall nutritional value rather than focussing on any one nutrient.
- Children under 3 years of age require foods that are rich in fat. They need at least 27 g of fat every day compared to 25 g required by 4–6 year olds.
- Keep children away from processed food items.
- Consider a variety of foods to fulfil the body requirement of carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients
- Ensure that the diet provides the optimum number of calories needed for proper growth and development.
- Encourage children to engage in at least 40–60 minutes of vigorous physical activities that increase their heart rate. Some such activities are jumping, dancing and running.
- Offer fruit juices and milkshakes to children who avoid or don’t like eating fruits.
Eating Habits: Choosing Meals And Snacks
This can be a guideline for all parents; though individual discretion is a must.
1. Cereals and millets
They provide energy, fibre (if non-refined) and B complex vitamins.
Include as per age: All grains and millets like wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, ragi, oats, quinoa and their products .
Limit: Wheat breads.
Avoid: white breads, pav, instant noodles, sugar-laden breakfast cereals and biscuits – just anything made with maida (refined flour).
2. Pulses, meat, fish, eggs and other non-dairy sources of protein
Provides your child with protein and minerals such as iron and zinc. Vegetarian proteins also contain fibre, B vitamins. Eggs are a convenient and versatile alternative to meat. Any one from the above is a must daily.
Include as per age: Well cooked eggs, beans, pulses, chicken, lamb, in different forms. Oily fish (not fried) like tuna, salmon, mackerel can be great 1-2 times a week.
Limit: may be a good idea to limit soyabeans until others beans are introduced and accepted.
Avoid: Raw/undercooked meat/ beans/ eggs and processed meats or chicken products like nuggets, patties etc (high sodium, preservatives, fats).
3.Eating Habits: Milk and dairy foods
As dependence on breast milk reduces, it’s important to provide milk and its products from other sources as they contain bio available calcium, Vit A, D, proteins and healthy fats.
Include as per age: Buffalo’s/ Cow’s Milk, curd, homemade paneer, and preparations made with these.
Limit: ready to eat yoghurts, processed cheese, cream.
Avoid: skimmed milk/ zero fat milk, sugar laden and artificial flavoured milk drinks and yoghurts.
4.Eating Habits: Fruits and vegetables
Overall all fruits & vegetables provide vitamins & minerals along with fibre but certain vegetables contain certain nutrients, eg dark green, leafy veg are a good source of iron, calcium; bananas and oranges are a good source of potassium; some root vegetables are a good source of selenium etc. Thus a variety is a must. Fruits are preferred raw with skins but occasionally cooked are okay.
a. Roots and tubers, green leafy vegetables and other vegetables
Include as per age: All vegetables, especially seasonal ones, must be added to your child’s diet as curry, sautéed vegetable, in wraps, sandwiches, with rice, as salad sticks, soups and any other way your family has traditionally practised.
Limit: homemade french fries(oven/grill), frozen/ tinned veggies.
Avoid: Potato chips and vegetables cooked in fried form, frozen instant vegetable snacks.
Include as per age: All seasonal fruits in fresh ripe form. They can be added to kheer, porridge, homemade ice creams, ice lollies and popsicles.
Limit: Frozen and dehydrated fruits (may contain sugar, sodium)
Avoid: Juice (even 100% fruit juice), jams, jellies and fruit syrups. Fruit flavours in processed foods do not add up to daily servings.
5.Eating Habits: Fats and sugars
Though children need more healthy fats than adults, a little too much is being consumed due to over-dependence on processed, junk and convenience foods. Junk, together with a high intake of sugary foods and drinks, is a leading cause of childhood obesity, which, in turn, increases the risk for non-communicable diseases during adulthood.
Include as per age: Ghee, butter (no sodium), vegetable oils, natural sweeteners
Limit: Jaggery, honey
Avoid: Transfats, hydrogenated fat-based chocolates, biscuits and refined sugars. Juice with sugar, fizzy drinks, sauces and other processed foods must also be avoided.
Eating Skills And dynamical Behaviours:
Your kid can bit by bit become additional expert at manduction and swallowing and at employing a spoon and fork. Here square measure a number of the changes in feeding skills and behaviours you’ll expect from your growing kid.
From twelve to eighteen months:
• Chow a range of nourishing foods
• Likes feeding with hands
• Drinks from a cup
• Is awkward with spoon and fork
• Desires foods others square measure feeding
• Tries completely different behaviours to check however you’ll react
18 months to 2 years:
• Not as hungry
• Likes feeding with hands
• Likes similar patterns and routine
• Likes making an attempt foods with completely different textures
• Shows food likes and dislikes
• Uses fork and spoon with additional talent
• Has terribly clear ideas regarding feeding or not feeding
Two years previous:
• Definite likes and dislikes
• Dawdles over food every now and then
• Insists on doing things by themselves
• Likes to assist in room
• Holds glass or cup with one hand
• higher at manduction, however should choke on sure foods
• Routines become additional vital
Three years previous:
• Improved appetency and interest in food
• Asks for favorite foods
• Likes shapes, colours
• Could demand only 1 regular food for some days
• Chews most food
• could like raw vegetables to baked
• Influenced by TV commercials, family, and friends
Eating Habits: Four years previous:
• Is ready to eat exhausting foods like popcorn and cracked
• Influenced by what friends square measure feeding
• Uses fork and spoon simply
• Would rather speak than eat
• Could still impose only 1 regular food for some days
Five years previous:
• Will feed themselves
• Prefers easy foods
• Could also be a fussy eater
• Friends can very begin to influence food decisions
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits:
Parents and children have different jobs when it comes to food and eating.
• Your role as a parent is to decide what, when, and where to offer food.
• Your child’s role is to decide whether or not to eat, and how much to eat. Allowing your child to do theirs will help prevent feeding difficulties.
Parents decide WHAT foods to offer
• It’s important to have healthy eating habits yourself and be a role model for your child.
• Think about what your family likes to eat, but don’t limit the menu to just what they’re used to.
• Offer new foods, but just a small amount at first.
• Children like to eat with their fingers. And that’s perfectly okay! So serve food in a form they can handle themselves.
Parents decide WHEN to offer food
• Children need three meals and two to three snacks a day.
• Plan and offer meals and snacks at regular times, then your child will be hungry when it’s time to eat.
• Offer food and drinks at mealtimes and at snacktimes, but not in between. If your child is thirsty between meals or snacks, offer water.
Parents decide WHERE to offer food
• eat meals with your child
• Encourage a pleasant atmosphere.
• Turn off the TV and radio during mealtimes. This will help your child focus on eating and learning eating skills.
Children decide WHETHER or not to eat
• Children’s appetites change from day to day. Some days children seem to eat a lot. Other days they won’t eat much. This is normal!
Children decide HOW MUCH to eat
• Allow your child to leave the plate unfinished. Never bribe them to eat “just one more bite”.
• A child’s portion tends to be smaller than an adult’s. Children have small stomachs, so they need to eat small amounts more often.
• Your child’s steady growth is the best way to tell that they are eating enough.
Common childhood feeding issues & solutions
If your child wants the same food every day:
Be aware that if your child eat only a limited number of foods their intake of important nutrients will be limited. Let your child have the food they like as long as it is nutritious.Try to offer healthy food at each meal.
If your child takes too long to eat:
With patience give your child time to explore, touch and taste their food. Young children need time to experience food and to learn how to use utensils. After a reasonable amount of time remove your child’s plate.
If your child refuses to eat:
A child’s appetite can vary from day to day and from meal to meal so they may not be hungry. Serve smaller amounts of food.Snacks have to be served before meal time(minimum 1 hour).
If your child refuses to try new foods:
Continue to offer “new” foods and put small amounts on your child’s plate whenever you eat them. Encourage your child to try a small bite.Don’t force your child to eat a “new” food. Encourage to have “new” foods when other children are eating and enjoying that food.
If your child does not eat vegetables:
Serve vegetables when your child is hungry. Offer a variety of brightly coloured vegetables so the child can choose what they like. Serve vegetables lightly cooked. Finely chop vegetables and mixed them with pasta or soup.Encourage your child for growing their own garden.
If your child does not drink milk:
Yogourt and cheese provide calcium but not vitamin D so your child must have at least 500 ml milk each day for enough vitamin D. Serve milk at a temperature your child likes. Use milk as a substitute of water in cream soups, with pureed vegetables, in puddings and hot cereal.
If your child refuses to eat meat:
Some children does not like meat because of chewing difficulty.So cut the meat in small pieces & cook them in different ways & make it more appealing.Beside meat also offer them eggs,fish,lentils,butter,cheese etc which are also good source of protein.If your child does not eat any kind of protein then consult with a registered dietitian.
Vitamin and mineral supplements
Vitamin and mineral supplements and other food supplements aren’t needed if your child eats a variety of foods from each food group. Supplements don’t take the place of food. They can’t replace healthy eating. Sometimes, though, there are situations where a child may need a supplement. For example, if a child:
• Hardly ever eats foods containing iron. These are foods such as meats, iron-fortified breads and cereals, eggs, dried fruits, cooked dried beans or lentils, and dark leafy vegetables
• usually drinks less than two cups (500 mL) of milk each day
• consistently refuses to eat an entire food group
Your family doctor or a registered nutritionist or dietitian can help you decide if your child needs a supplement. Like any other pill, supplements can be dangerous if too much is taken.Keep them out of reach of children.
As your child gets older they may start eating a greater variety of foods. And they’ll also start trying to help around the kitchen. Here are a few reminders to help you keep you and your child ‘food safe’ and healthy.
• Wash your hands to show your child how to wash hands thoroughly. – Teach your child to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food. Or after using the bathroom, or touching animals.
• Take food off the table and refrigerate it as soon as possible after the meal is over.
• Wash kitchen and table surfaces every day.
• Use a clean cloth to wash your child’s hands and face.
• Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
• Some foods are a high risk because they can contain bacteria that can make your child very sick. Don’t serve the following foods to children:
– Raw sprouts such as alfalfa and bean sprouts. Cooked sprouts are safe.
– Unpasteurized fruit juice, milk, cheese.
– Raw eggs.
– Uncooked dough or batter that contains raw eggs.