The health of young children is of paramount importance. Early childhood is marked as a period of rapid growth and development. Inculcating healthy eating habits among them at this young age can last for a lifetime.
Therefore, nutrition plays a significant role during these years to ensure their all-round development and a bright future ahead. Good nutrition makes a kid healthy, active, happy and less prone to infections by boosting their immunity. It is a phase where a child has high nutritional requirements that can be only met by providing nutrient-dense food items containing both macro (carbohydrates, proteins, and fat) and micro (vitamins and minerals) nutrients in adequate proportions. There are some essential tips for parents that will make sure that your child eats right and follow a healthy lifestyle.
The first important step is that a child should have 3 major meals and 3 minor meals every day. 3 major meals include breakfast, lunch, and dinner while 3 minor meals include mid-day meal (whole fruit or fruit chat), evening meal (healthy snacks with a glass of milk) and post-dinner meal (a cup of warm milk). Assure that kids have all their six meals a day.
Healthy eating is comprised of consuming good quality of food at the right time and in the right quantity. It can only be achieved if a child is having a balanced diet. Hence, include all the five food groups (1. Cereals, grains, and products, 2. Pulses and legumes, 3. Milk and meat products, 4. Fruits and vegetables, 5. Fats and sugars) in a child’s whole day meal given by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi).
Children cannot have large portions of food at one stretch, so never try to feed them forcefully. Always encourage them to have small and frequent meals at 2 to 2.5 hours of time interval, keeping in mind their food preferences.
Make sure that a child drinks plenty of free foods to stay hydrated the complete day such as plain water, lemon water, homemade lassi, chaach, shikanji, fresh fruit juices, coconut water, milk, milk shakes, smoothies, flavoured milk like almonds, pistachios, kesar etc rather than going for any aerated or other processed drinks.
Each food item served should add variety to their meal, should be colourful, vary in texture, appealing to their senses and presented attractively so that a child shows great interest in his/her meal.
Give your child healthy food choices such as vegetables stuffed rolls, cutlets, poha, idli, dosa, dhokla, khandvi etc. Limit the intake of junk food, processed food items like maggi, pasta, macaroni etc along with the content of sugar and salt in their diet.
Hygienic conditions are necessary while food preparation such as during pre-preparation, handling, serving and storage to avoid any form of contamination.
Environment while eating should be very comfortable, calm, pleasant and without any distraction. This helps the child to completely concentrate on his/her meal.
Apart from a healthy diet, physical activity has a major role in development of mental health, stamina and strength in children. Encourage the child to involve in various indoor and outdoor activities of their choices rather than sitting in front of electronic gadgets like television, mobile phones, video games, computers etc.
Last but not the least a child should have at least 7-8 hours of sleep to feel refreshed, energetic and active the whole day.