If you are a parent complaining about uneaten lunch in the lunch-box, dealing with tantrums on the dining table or begging all day to convince your child to eat fruits and vegetables, then you are definitely a caring parent of a school goer.
But does this care and effort, help kids eat healthy? By this, I do not mean to not take care of your young ones, but we may need to change our approach.
During infancy, the growth of a child is fast and is developing taste buds hence parents are satisfied to see their kids eat and grow. Unfortunately, during school age, kids become a little choosy about the taste and appearance of food and to add on, the growth period is slow and steady as compared to infancy. This leaves the parents worried and unsatisfied with their kids eating habits.
To begin with, let’s talk about the nutrients that your “bundle of energy” requires to stay fit and healthy. The age of 6-12years is characterized by an improvement of the functioning of most body tissues and organs systems. It is also the period of preparation for an adolescent growth spurt. At this age, human minds are constantly working in some field or the other and their body is active all throughout the day.
Hence in this article, I shall explain how to help grow healthy children without stressing yourself.
Nutrients required for your child’s body
To begin with, let’s talk about the nutrients that kids require to stay fit and healthy.
The growth of your child, and expanding their blood volume
Proteins – The fact that there is growth and development of muscles and expansion of blood volume makes protein a very important macronutrient to be consumed. Egg, milk, yoghurt, meat and pulses are good sources of proteins. They need to be included in all their meals. To get the maximum benefit of proteins for muscle growth one needs to combine proteins with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy for daily work so that protein can be spared for muscle development. So, menus like cereal and milk, egg and bread, meat and potato or pulse and rice are perfect protein and carbohydrate combinations.
Energy for your child, get it from good fats
Fats – It is true that 25% of energy should be supplied by fats. However, too much of fried foods can cause obesity in kids. Deep fried foods should be served occasionally and preferably prepared at home. Good fats from sources like nuts and seeds should be served daily.
Ensuring your child’s bones are growing, especially their teeth!
Calcium – Calcium plays an important role as there is new teeth development. Also, to achieve peak bone mass, one needs to consume calcium. Dairy like milk, yoghurt, cheese, calcium rich fruits and vegetables and calcium fortified cereals can help. A dose of the sunlight vitamin, vitamin D, also ensures that the bone density of your child is topnotch.
Iron for child’s blood, and Vitamin C to absorb it
Iron – In growing children, there is an expansion of red cell mass. Also, the iron stores that build up during childhood is sustained until menarche (for girls this is when they get their first menstrual cycle). Hence focus on iron intake is important. Meat, and especially organ meat, egg, green leafy vegetables and beans are all good sources of iron. Combining iron with Vitamin C helps in better absorption.
Vitamins and Minerals like A, B12, C, Zinc
Vitamin A, C and Zinc not only boost immunity but also have special functions. For instance, Vitamin A is important for cell growth and deficiency of Vitamin A leads to night blindness.
If your kid has bleeding or swelling gums, then she may be suffering from scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. Eating berries and citrus fruit would work well. Other than body defence, zinc is required for cell growth and taste. Kids having frequent diarrhoea are low on zinc. It is essential to offer supplementation as advised by your medical doctor.
Vitamin B12 is a very important B complex vitamins that help in protein metabolism. Its deficiency can cause mental disorders or anaemia. Kids who lack concentration power or have low IQ need to be checked for Vitamin B 12 levels in the blood.
Though all the vitamins and minerals have unique importance in our bodies, we can consume them all together by having different coloured fruits and vegetables daily. Consuming root and tubers, green leafy vegetables and at least 2 fruits daily will prevent your child from most deficiencies. However, if your child is already low on any of the vitamins, its best to supplement them and then maintain levels with a healthy diet.
Thirst is the last sign before dehydration: Water
I have seen kids asking for water and mothers stopping them from drinking because it’s odd to take them to the washroom in public events. Have you ever done that too? If so, you are not being very kind.
Thirst is the last sign before getting dehydrated so please do not stop your child from drinking water. Provide at least 2 litres of liquids to your child which includes water, soups, milk and juice.
Note that aerated drinks and coffee are not considered as a liquid for hydration. Instead, they leave kids dehydrated hence avoid them.
Now we know what is needed to raise healthy kids, but I know the question that is hitting your mind right now is “How the hell do you feed these nutrients in their tummies?” Am I right?