Child Nutrition

November 12, 2012

Child Nutrition

Child nutrition is essential for healthy growth and with that, all parents should know what foods their children need and why. They may not be growing as the rate they did when they were infants, but children still require a great amounts of nutrients. What makes it tricky is that there appetites are usually fairly small, so what they do eat needs to be packed with the vitamins and minerals they require. The foods that they become accustomed to eat as a child will often reflect into their dietary behaviour as adults so it is important to develop good habits as early as possible. This will have significant effects on their health as children and well into adulthood. When it comes to child nutrition and their diets in general it often helps to keep meal and snacks structured while maintaining some variety. A range of foods is necessary to be sure that your child is receiving a range of nutrients from every food group.

Energy Foods

Children in school have high-energy requirement, needed for physical activity as well as for growth. The numbers of over-weight children are increasing thanks to a combination of unbalanced diets and a lack of exercise. When children (or adults for that matter) eat more calories than they burn, body fat will increase. If your child is gaining excessive weight encourage more physical activity such as football, cycling, swimming, walking the dog and make sure they are eating a balanced diet. Try to limit the amount of fatty and sugary items they are eating. Make sure the whole family is eating well and if possible try to eat the same meals all together at the same time. This way the rest of the family are acting as positive role models and introducing good habits.

High Calcium

Products high in calcium are essential for good child nutrition. Some examples include milk, cheese, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables, cereals and tofu. Dairy products make great snacks that can easily be taken to school. The ideal calcium consumption for a child per day is three small portions. This is as simple as a glass of milk, small yoghurt and piece of cheese.

Folate and Iron

Folate is a vitamin, essential for healthy growth. It is common for children to be lacking in this vitamin. A great source of folate is breakfast cereals and breakfast in general is another important factor of child nutrition. Iron is required by the red blood cells to keep them healthy and functioning properly. A lack of iron can lead to anaemia, especially as the child gets older. Red meat, liver, fortified breakfast cereals, beans and pulses are all good sources of iron. Vitamin C is important a long side iron as it help the body to absorb it.

School meals and packed lunches

Child nutrition has been in the forefront of the media in recent years and school dinners, as of 2009 must adhere to nutritional guidelines. Never the less you should educate your child in balanced diets and encouraged them to pick the high protein meals such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs rather than the high in fat meals such as pies, pasties and burgers. This should be accompanied with one starchy food such as rice, pasta, bread and baked potato as well as one portion of vegetables and a piece of fruit. Ideas for packed nutritional packed lunches include sandwiches, stuffed pitta breads, bagels, crusty rolls or muffins with fillings such as:

  • Chicken salad with a low fat dressing

  • Cheese and pickle

  • Bacon, lettuce and tomato

  • Hummus and red pepper

  • Tuna salad

  • Salmon and cucumber

This could be accompanied with a pot of yoghurt, hard-boiled egg, pieces of cheese, fresh fruit, cherry tomatoes or other healthy snack items. As important as child nutrition is, it is also necessary for children to get a decent amount of physical activity. The combination of the two should lead to a healthy child, both short and long term.

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