A DIET FOR CHILDREN

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR A HEALTHY DIET

– eat foods in their proper proportions

– don’t eat too much meat

– opt for vegetable proteins whenever possible

– eat some fresh fruit and vegetables every day

– cut down on your salt and alcohol intake

– cut down on your intake of refined sugars

– don’t barbecue too often, and avoid foods that are too spicy or overcooked

– cut down your intake of fried foods, and don’t re-use the same oil or fat

– avoid reheated foods

– make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants (selenium, Vitamins C and E)

Child nutrition has been the object of much study and discussion over the last few years. Dr. M.F. Rolland-Cachera has spent over ten years researching child nutrition, particularly ways to measure the mass of adipose tissue in children. She drew attention to the fact that in most cases children are given too much protein, or are introduced to proteins too early. She is also a staunch believer in the benefits of breast milk. Her most recent study questions some of the advice given by doctors and nutritionists to new mothers.

Too much protein in very young children’s diets causes tissues to mature too rapidly, increasing the division rate of fat cells. Result: infant obesity.

Children, even more than most adults, need high energy food, full of vitamins and minerals. Vegetable soup (home-made if possible) makes an excellent staple.

Growth foods

To promote growth, children need a variety of indispensable foods:

– milk, yogurt and cheese

– eggs, meat and fish (all rich in protein, constituting the building blocks of cells)

– whole grains, whole grain bread and dried legumes (also rich in protein – a good way to fulfil a growing child’s daily protein requirements)

Be careful not to encourage children to eat too much. A child’s appetite is usually a good indicator of his or her needs, while parents are often responsible for forcing children to overeat.

During the first few months of life, breast milk or formula fulfils all the child’s nutritional needs. Next, proteins obtained from meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products are required to ensure proper growth.

Foods to develop and consolidate bones

Milk, yogurt and cheese are all rich in calcium. From birth to adulthood, children need enough calcium to ensure the formation of strong bones and teeth. Remember that calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body.

Following the period of breast or bottle feeding, make sure to give children enough milk and/or dairy products to meet their calcium needs.

Foods for producing red blood cells

– Liver, meat, fish, eggs

– Dried legumes

These foods are rich in iron, and therefore indispensable for the production of red blood cells, and the proper oxygenation of muscles. They also help build children’s resistance to infection.

From birth to the age of 4 months, children get all the iron they need from breast milk or formula.

When they are four or five months old, children should be given iron-enriched formula and introduced to a variety of foods. Past the age of one, the regular consumption of iron-rich foods should cover the child’s requirements.

Note that iron deficiencies are often detected in children between the ages of one and three. This can easily be avoided by serving iron-rich foods (meat, egg yolk, etc.) on a regular basis.

Health foods

By health foods we mean foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and therefore indispensable for health. Three vitamins are absolutely essential for children: C, D and A.

– Many fruits (especially kiwis and citrus fruits) and fresh raw vegetables are excellent sources of Vitamin C which, as you may know, helps protect tissues, increases resistance to infection and disease, and promotes proper development of the organism.

– Liver, eggs, butter, milk (whole or partly skimmed), cheese, fruit and vegetables contain Vitamin A, or its precursor beta-carotene. This vitamin is indispensable for vision and proper growth.

– Liver, butter and oily fish (tuna, salmon, sardines) contain small amounts of Vitamin D, which plays an important role in the assimilation and bonding of calcium in bones.

In fact, most diets do not provide children with enough Vitamin D. Other sources include exposure to sunlight, and supplements (consult a pediatrician) especially during the winter months.

Other than that, a varied balanced diet adapted to the needs of growing children (containing enough meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, fruit and starch) should provide sufficient quantities of all essential vitamins and minerals.

Water

Like adults, children need to drink enough water to irrigate tissues and organs, and ensure proper elimination of waste. Newborn infants are composed of about 80% water (adults contain about 60%). In addition, infants can rapidly lose a lot of water in relation to their body weight. Potential causes of dehydration are:

– extreme heat

– fever

– diarrhoea

– vomiting

It’s a good idea to give young children water between bottle feedings, and to encourage older children to drink water during meals.

Newborn infants get all the water they need from breast milk or formula. But as soon as a variety of foods are introduced, children should be encouraged to drink water during their two main meals of the day, and between meals if the weather is hot. Don’t worry about giving children too much water – they can drink as much as they need to quench their thirst.

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