The most difficult job is being a parent is the constant worry to provide a wholesome life to our young one in every sphere of life, whether it be education, health, achieving milestones or simply what food to give them to help them grow. As a parent it’s our wish to give our child the best of everything.
While growing up, every child requires the right food which contains the essential nutrients needed by his or her body. In today’s evolving world, researchers are constantly trying to figure out new ways to help meet the basic needs of a growing baby. With the advent of the artificial flavors, genetically modified foods, packed cereals etc. it has become very difficult for the parents to decide what is best for their children, and how should they meet the essential needs of their child.
What are the essential nutrients needed by a growing body and how to get them:
Carbohydrates are an essential constituent of a kid’s diet as they are the building blocks of energy. There are two types of Carbohydrates, namely, simple and complex. A child’s diet should have ample supply of both to grow as well as for the proper development of the brain. A major percentage of the food should be carbohydrate in order to readily provide the energy requirements of an active body. Carbohydrates provide the body with energy, they are a constituent of fats and proteins which our body requires for proper functioning. Carbohydrates also protects muscle mass and aids in food digestion by providing nutrition for the beneficial bacteria that our body has. Eating the right amount and type of carbohydrates prevents metabolic conditions such as diabetes, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) and heart disease.
How to fulfill the daily required carbohydrate requirement:
- Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of carbs. Use of vegetables such as potatoes, to make pies or a casserole can be a good meal option. Moreover, an in between snack of corn, melon or pumpkin is also a good option.
- Use whole grain bread or flour to bake for your child. Whole grain tortillas are a good alternative which are both filling as well as nutritious.
- You can also add beans and legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans as a snack or a side dish.
- Use dairy products such as cheese as part of breakfast or school snack.
Proteins are an important nutrients needed for the body to maintain the muscle mass, the strength of bones, the quality of blood and the proper function of vital organs. Proteins are also an important component of enzymes, DNA, hormones, antibodies, and keratin.
How to get proteins into the diet:
- Eggs are a staple breakfast food in every household. Fry them, scramble them or use them in French Toast! They are a great source of protein.
- Fish and lean meat are a great source of protein. Give your child a fish steak when they feel hungry in between meals. Use lean meat to make lasagna or pasta to satisfy your child.
- Use baked beans as a breakfast side line, they are rich in proteins.
- Dried cranberries, soy nuts, raisins can be added to cereals or just taken as a snack.
- Nuts are high in proteins and are a great snack that can be added to yogurt too.
Contrary to popular belief that all fats are harmful, some fats are required by the human body in order to grow and function properly. However, it is imperative that we know the right fats and the diet to acquire it. Fats act as energy stores and are needed for the proper functioning of neurons. They are also essentials for transporting certain vitamins and to form irreplaceable hormones including steroid hormones. Fats are also needed for a healthy, rejuvenated skin. Essential fats, such as omega-3, are needed for the proper functioning of cellular activities.
Fulfilling daily fat requirement ideas:
- Avocados are a healthy option to provide your child with the right type of fats. Using avocados as cubes and eating them raw as a snack are a good option. Meanwhile you can also use avocado pasta or make avocado casseroles to fulfill you kids growing requirement.
- A daily snack of nuts is a healthy option proving your kid with the essential fats he or she needs.
- Using fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel at least twice a week is a wonderful way to give your child the beneficial fats.
- Replace your regular brand of oil with healthier options such as rapeseed, corn or olive oil.
- A dessert with high fat cream is a treat for any child and provides the fat they need too.
It is an essential nutrient required to make teeth and bones stronger. For the growing kids, it is most important due to development of physical strength in bones. Having copious amount of calcium early on in your life will build up calcium stores thus reducing the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis (bone disease resulting in loss of bones’ strength). The source considered the best for calcium is the cow’s milk and its derivatives.
Ideas for calcium provision for the kid:
- Provide whole-grain (hot or cold) cereal with milk (low-fat) and fresh fruits for the breakfast.
- Juices that provide a healthy count of calcium can also be used as an alternative.
- We can also incorporate yogurt (low fat), cheese, or even smoothies during non-meal/snack hours.
Fiber is also one of the essential nutrient everyone, including children, needs plenty each day. Fiber helps in digestion and regulating bowel moving habits (eventually reducing constipation). Having regular bowel movements has the long term benefit of even reducing the risk of colon cancer. It also helps in slowing the process of sugar absorbing in the bloodstream (preventing the level of blood glucose to increase very quickly). Having high fiber diet also helps in satisfying your hunger, since it passes through your intestines quicker, and allowing the brain to receive signals of satiety. It is also helpful in cleaning out bacteria in our intestines, which again is helpful in reducing the incidence of colon cancer.
Ideas to meet the Fiber requirement:
- Whole grain breads and cereals for breakfast are an easy way to provide the daily requirement without changing the routine
- Adding Legumes and Beans (Soybeans, Peas, lentils, etc.) as main constituent in daily lunches and dinners. For example, you can add baked beans for the meal every alternate day.
- Brown rice can also be used for meeting the fiber-rich diet since the brown husk (element of fiber in rice) are not removed as compared to white rice
- Fruits are also a good source of fiber. For example, oranges, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, apples and exotic fruits like mangos contain 3-5 grams of fiber. A few other fruits like persimmon and guava can exceed up to 9 grams per cup of serving. You could also substitute juices with pulpy juices (containing fibers) or making fresh fruit juices with pulp for your kid.
- Vegetables, in generals, in darker color are usually high in fiber diet. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, potatoes, beets, collard greens, Swiss chard are average fiber providing vegetables around 4 grams of fiber per cup. For the high fiber count, Artichoke of a medium size can provide up to 10 grams of fiber.
- An evening snack of nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, and seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin can provide up to 3 grams of fiber/ounce. They also provide high amount of calories, thus giving a quick energy boost.
- For a convenient and quick snack, one can always offer a bowl of popcorn, which can provide up to 1.33 grams of fiber per cup
The reason which makes iron an important nutrient for the body is that it helps in transporting oxygen in the entire body. The component ‘Hemoglobin’ in red blood cells is responsible for transporting oxygen through lungs and then subsequently to the entire body, and is comprised of 2/3rd of the iron. Lacking in iron means, low hemoglobin level, leading to insufficient development of red blood cells carrying oxygen, leading to early fatigue. This can also result in exhaustion and affecting brain activity, including immune system which helps in fighting various diseases. Iron is also important for healthy growth of skin, nails, hair and healthy blood cells. This is what makes it one of the important nutrients for the child’s growth and development. Children, especially infants/toddlers, require more iron compared to adults, because the body of a growing baby is faster compared to the adult. It is estimated that around 10 mgs of daily iron is needed for age 4-8, and approximately 8 mgs is required from the age 9-13.
How to meet the iron requirement:
- For breakfast, A few iron-fortified breads and cereals are easily available, which can be obtained from your nearby supermarkets.
- Food items such as Beans, Peas, Meat, Poultry, and Seafood etc. are rich in iron. These items can be used during meal hours to meet the daily requirement of iron.
- Vegetables, usually dark green leafy, are also rich in iron. The fine example for iron rich vegetable is spinach, which can also be used in various meal hours.
- You can also use dried fruits to meet the last remaining requirement of your iron, for example raisins, apricots, and similar items.