Eat Healthy | Be Healthy: The Importance of Healthy Eating in Children

Dr. Alok Madan
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Children go through distinct periods of growth & development as they move from infants to young adults. During each of these stages multiple changes takes place. We all instinctively know from birth that food is essential to our own survival. A nutritious diet will make a child healthier and better.

Physically, a child’s body is different from that of an adult; because they are growing and developing, they have particular nutritional requirements. Giving children nutritionally dense food options is important for proper overall growth and development.

Children can be picky eaters. For many parents, picturing a toddler stubbornly throwing a food which doesn’t have taste in disgust is easy – after all, it’s an all too familiar scene. However tiring it might be, it’s important that you find ways to convince a child to eat nutritional food, as it directly impacts all aspects of a child’s growth and development. It is more likely that, how your child eats today will have a striking impact on his/her health throughout adolescence and adulthood. Consuming nutritious foods helps children and teens grow, develop, do well academically and feel good about them. Good nutrition also helps prevent child and teen issues such as eating disorders, obesity, dental cavities and iron-deficiency anemia.

Nutritional Demands in Children

The relationship between nutrition, health and learning is undeniably strong: nutrition is one of the three major factors that impact a child’s development. As genes and environment are the other two factors, eating a certain food cannot guarantee that a child will be smarter. Allowing children to eat processed and fast foods instead of fruits, vegetables and other whole foods is pushing them toward having lifelong weight issues. Healthy eating is vital. If nutritional needs are been unmet because too many sugary and high-fat foods are replacing nutritious food, children may be unable to perform at age-appropriate levels. Children have a higher metabolic rate, requiring more caloric intake than adults, but it’s vital that the calories they consume be nutritious.

Foods to Avoid

Children’s immune systems are underdeveloped, which makes them prone to infection. When considering a child’s diet, it’s important to know what to include and what not to include in order to avoid illness. Most processed foods contain white sugars, white flours, artificial sweeteners or food coloring that can leave the body weak and provide little nutritional value. Thus, eliminating junk foods will leave room in the diet for fruits, vegetables and whole grains, all of which boost the immune system.

Foods to be added in meal

  • Protein: to build body cells, fight infection & carry oxygen which includes: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, dairy products.
  • Carbohydrates: is an important source of energy. It helps a child’s body to use fat and protein for building & repairing tissue. Food including carbohydrate are breads, cereals, rice, potatoes etc.,
  • Fats: Is a great source of energy for kids. Foods for fats are whole-milk dairy products, cooking oils, meat, fish, nuts etc.
  • Calcium: helps to build a  child’s healthy bones & teeth. Food items include: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, egg-yolks, broccoli, spinach, and tofu.
  • Iron- It builds a healthy blood that carries oxygen to cells all over the body. Foods that contain iron are red meat, liver, poultry, whole grains, beans, nuts and iron-fortified cereals.

Addition to above, food items that contains folate, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C should be added in meal.

Thus, Optimal Infant & Young Child Feeding Practices leads to Better Child Health.