“Is my child getting enough nutrients from the best food?” This is a common question which parents tend to worry about. In fact, there is no particular “best food”. One of the best ways to eat healthily is to consume a variety of food. This will ensure your child meets all the nutrient requirements.
Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, a variety of food should include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products.
Children have greater needs for energy, water and oxygen as their bodies are in high gear, absorb nutrients from the foods they eat more quickly, busy growing, developing and maturing all the various organs and systems that eventually turn them into adults. (1) In addition to fueling active young bodies, good nutrition can stabilize energy, sharpen minds and smooth out moods.
How to Provide Good Nutrition for a Kid?
What kids eat and drink during their early years can affect their health for many years to come. General eating habits are formed in the first few years of life, so it is important that we encourage our kids to eat nutritious food.
Rice, cereal & tubers
As the main energy source, kids should eat adequate amounts of carbohydrates. Opt for whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal or brown rice to increase fiber intake for healthy digestion.
Start introducing whole grains to children as early as possible and target to achieve half of the daily consumption of grains from whole grains. For example, try mixing brown rice together with white rice as a start, then make a full switch once your children have accepted the taste and texture.
A variety of vegetables and fruits are a must for children to have their daily dose of dietary fibre, vitamins (e.g. vitamin A, C) and minerals. Establish the principle of “five-colors-a-day”, which means five servings of fruits and vegetables in different colors daily.
Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, legumes & nuts
Protein is the key in children’s growth, to build, maintain and repair body tissues. Lack of protein at a young age will compromise the body’s immune functions.
Fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. omega-3 and omega-6) for the child’s brain and eyes function.(2) Do limit processed foods like ham, burger patties, sausages, fish balls and nuggets which are high in salt and preservatives.
Milk &dairy products
Milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese provide many essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A and D, which are needed for children’s growth.
Calcium especially is important for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Your kid can meet the daily requirement of 2 to 3 servings by drinking 3 glasses of milk daily or a glass of milk, a cup of yogurt and a slice of cheese a day.
Quarter Half: A Guide to Healthy, Balanced Meals
This healthy plate method is not only for adult, it is the same concept for the practice of a balanced diet for kids and the most practical way for balanced meals.
All you have to do is “divide” your kid’s plate in the following manner:
- ¼ plate grains or grain products, preferably whole grains such as brown rice or wholemeal bread
- ¼ plate fish or, poultry, meat, or egg
- ½ plate of fruits and vegetables
Avoid using adult-sized plates for children, as it is easy to misjudge how much food you are serving them. For Children, the plate size used should be around 18 cm (7 inches). (3)
Encouraging healthy eating patterns can greatly affect your kid’s lifelong relationship with food. Good nutritional habits and balanced diet give your kid the best opportunity to grow into a healthy and confident adult.
- “Why Is a Healthy Diet Important for Child Development?” Livestrong.
- “Nutrition for kids: Guidelines for a healthy diet.” The Mayo Clinic.
- Pinggan Sihat Malaysia