Nutrition in Childhood
Does your child test your patience level?? The answer would be a unanimous "yes" from most of the parents whose kids age between 1 and 13. This period is commonly known as the “latent” or “quiescent” period of growth during which no rapid physical changes occur. These preschool and middle school years evolve the child into a person with better intellectual, communal and emotional skills.
Growth and Development
You can notice a substantial decrease in the pace at which your child grows after its first birthday. Weight increases by 2 to 3 kg and height by 6 to 8cms every year at an average. But few children show unsettled growth. Noticeable changes in body proportion and almost stable body composition signify the kid's pre-school and middle school years.
Malnourished, ill or stunted children undergo a phase called 'catch-up growth' during which recovery rate is amplified. The rate of ‘catch-up growth’ depends on the degree of the above factors. An increased intake of proteins and energy is essential during this period.
A visit to the doc signifies an ill or a sick child to many of us. There are other good reasons to meet your paediatrician. Assure yourself of your child's normal growth by determining their growth rate with a doc periodically. This provides data for analysis of their height, weight, BMI and length. These values help determine any anomalies in the growth of the kid and also provide the doctor with sufficient information to diagnose the cause of the problem.
Growing children must eat foods replete with high nutrient values. Foods rich in Energy, Proteins, Vitamins and Minerals keep your children fit as a fiddle.
Energy intake of a child depends on the energy used by the kid. Most of us stuff our kids with plateful of food. This may lead to obesity in the long run if the child is not involved in activities needed to burn this energy consumed. Proteins are naturally present in the food we eat. Strict vegans, those allergic to certain foods or people who have limited access to food can succumb to protein deficiency.
Minerals and vitamins, required for the normal growth of a child, if deficient may result in retarded growth and deficiency diseases. Calcium, like proteins, is available in our regular diet. Children whose milk and dairy intake is limited or none may suffer from insufficient calcium levels. Our regular foods are not good sources of iron which can be compensated by eating greens. Have fun in the sun for sufficient Vitamin D levels in your body.
Renowned health organizations do not support the intake of dietary supplements. Eating food rich in the nutrients discussed above omit the need for any. Children are put on supplements only when they are at a nutritional risk.
Providing an Adequate Diet
There is more to food than just providing the body with nutrients. Feeding skills, facts about nutrition and food habits is analogous to the cognitive improvements that take place stage by stage.
Patterns of Intake
Children have shown drastic changes in eating pattern in recent times. They have moved towards eating more of junk and nutrient-less food. Intake of food poor in nutrition is commonly seen in low-income families and homeless children. Milk and vegetable intake decreases and cereal, sweet and grain consumption increases by the time the child becomes one year.
Factors Influencing Food Intake
A healthy child becomes a healthy adult. Children tend to establish certain eating practices and distinguish between favourable and unfavourable food which get carried well into their adulthood. Eating habits of parents, friends at school, media, health conditions and the latest popular food trends are some of the factors that determining food intake.
Feeding the Preschool Child
The most fun-filled part of parenting is the preschool period. The child learns to walk, talk, imitate and interact with the society. As the kid becomes involved in these activities it gradually loses interest in eating food. Most of the parents become frustrated and anxious about the child's eating pattern during this span. But strongly remember to handle this temporary phase with utmost patience. Children have a Lilliputian stomach and need small servings of food offered multiple times a day. Always try to substitute chocolates, sweets, cookies and aerated drinks with fruits, juices, veggies, cheese sticks and crackers. Kids get influenced easily by what other children eat or drink. Group feeding helps to inculcate healthy eating habits and impart knowledge about the benefits of the nutritious food.
Feeding the School-Aged Child
Children in this age group (6 to 12 years) have established routine eating habits and are rarely rebellious over food. Children may eat their lunch from the school canteen or bring their own lunch. The lunch served at school is high in fat content, sugar and salt. Though less in nutritional value, home-made food is the best having a low fat content. Some students tend to skip breakfast altogether. Reviews prove decreased performance in children who skip their breakfast compared to those who eat a healthy breakfast. Junk food snacking has become the norm of today’s kids. Parents should advice their little ones on eating a healthy snack outside or encourage offering wholesome snacks at home.
Preventing Chronic Disease
Heart problems, cancer, diabetes and obesity are common chronic diseases affecting people on a global scale. Renowned health organizations urge people to follow a healthy diet plan to safeguard themselves against these chronic diseases. The key point is to keep cholesterol levels in check in both adults and children. Think twice before you have your hands full on those yummy fries or rolls. But the good thing is that there are contradictory opinions on the impact of reduced cholesterol intake in children. They have found no positive effect on kids eating low-cholesterol foods. Osteoporosis is yet another common ailment found among elderly people, especially women. Generous calcium intake coupled with physical activity right from childhood increase bone density and work as the magic potion to prevent osteoporosis. Remind yourself that a diet fortified with fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, fiber, greens and low-fat dairy is the anchor to prevent any of the above mentioned illnesses in children.
"Junk food junk food everywhere and not many souls spared": Obesity has become a disease worldwide. Obese children tend to continue as obese adults which make it even more threatening. Genetics alone is not the reason behind this. Many kids in this world are perfect examples of a couch potato. Physical inactivity plays a major role in obesity development. This trend can be corrected with the entire family involved in dietary changes, planning group activities or sports and encouraging the obese individual with positive feedbacks. Childhood obesity is a sensitive issue which should be dealt with utmost concern as kids may lose their self-image and feel isolated if not treated carefully.
Underweight/ Failure to Thrive
It is not weird to find children starving these days fearing obesity. This is commonly found in kids who are between 9 and 17 years. Illness, lack of appetite and diet restriction can all be reasons for weight loss or failure to thrive. Constipation is a serious problem to be addressed in kids. Poor laxation may result in decreased appetite, intake of food and failure to thrive. Dried fruits and high-fiber foods act as solutions to poor bowel habits. Making kids aware of the benefits of healthy eating and creating an optimal environment should be our ultimate goal.
Iron deficiency is common among children aged 1 to 3 years. Children with this deficiency, with or without anemia, lack problem-solving skills and show reduced cognitive development. Excellent sources of iron are fish, meat, ascorbic acid and poultry.
Does your child have a sweet tooth? This may lead to dental caries. Parents must set an example on good oral hygiene and eating smart. Insist your toddler to use a toothbrush daily to brush his/her teeth. Fluorides are excellent sources to prevent decay. Use these supplements or fluoridated water for healthy teeth.
Food allergies happen when there is a family history of allergies. Respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin problems are outcome of allergies. Sometimes fatigue, lethargy and characteristic changes are subtle indications of an allergy.
Education starts right from home. Parents can use the shape, size, colour and texture of different foods to relate it to the infant and toddler for improving their thinking skills and speaking ability. Preschools act as platforms for more thorough information on nutrition. Practical correlation and simple methodology help to achieve the real-world nutrition goals.