Importance of Nutrition, Nutritional Requirements And Guidelines For Kids Nutrition Along With Diet Plan
Good nutrition is the cornerstone of health, and good health is the foundation of a happy life. Nutrition is important at every stage of life - but we need to pay particular attention to kids' nutrition. Children need the right nutrition early on to grow up healthy and strong and to stay healthy and strong.
Good nutrition when young will help establish a solid foundation for healthy eating as an adult. Eating good, wholesome meals at home in childhood also empowers your little one with nutritional knowledge they can carry forward later in life.
What Are The Nutritional Needs Of A Child?
The nutritional requirements of children vary with age. But in general, these are some guidelines for kids nutrition you should follow:
Energy-giving foods: These refer to carbohydrates and fats, which can be obtained from millets, whole-grain cereals, ghee, nuts, oilseeds and good, unrefined sugar.
Body-building food: These are proteins, the cell-building foods our body needs. Sources include pulses, poultry, meat, fish, nuts and oilseeds, milk and milk products, beans and more.
Protective and immunity-boosting foods: These are the vitamins and minerals that protect our body from infection and disease. They can be found in green leafy vegetables, other kinds of vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy, spices and herbs, and some other animal-derived foods.
Diet Plan For Children
Kids nutrition needs vary at different stages of their lives. Toddlers, for example, will consume smaller quantities of food compared to older kids. Infants and newborns survive exclusively on breast milk before they are introduced to semi solids and solid foods.
However, there is a basic diet plan that kids should follow in order to maintain a balanced diet, that includes requisite amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Kids Nutrition: Grains
Kids nutrition must include grains: food like roti, bread, rice, potatoes and other starches. Active children who spend much time outside will need at least 5 servings of carbohydrates per day.
Ages 1 to 3:
1/4 cup of rice or pasta
1/2 or 1 slice of bread
14g of dry cereal
Ages 4 to 6:
1/2 cup of rice or pasta
1 slice of bread
20g of dry cereal
Ages 7 to 11:
1 cup of rice or pasta
2 rotis/bread slices
30g of dry cereal
Kids Nutrition: Vegetables
Veggies provide fibre, vitamins and minerals. You should aim to give your child about two or three servings of vegetables daily. These include raw or cooked vegetables.
Ages 1 to 3: 1/4 cup
Ages 4 to 6: 1/4 to 1/3 cup
Ages 7 to 11: 1/2 cup
Kids Nutrition: Fruits
Fruits are an essential food of kids nutrition, full of vitamins and fibre. Being sweet and beautiful to look at, your kids shouldn’t make much of a fuss to eat them. 2-3 servings of fruit a day are ideal. Opt for local, seasonal fruit like bananas, mangoes, chikoo, jamun etc.
Ages 1 to 3:
1/4 cup pureed fruit mash
1/4 cup fresh fruit juice
Ages 4 to 6:
1/2 piece fresh fruit
1/2 cup fresh fruit juice
Ages 7 to 11:
1 piece of fresh fruit
1/2 cup fresh fruit juice
Kids Nutrition: Plant Proteins, Meat And Meat Substitutes
Pulses and beans are high in protein and a vital nutrient for kids nutrition, as these are important for growing children for their proper development. Paneer, tofu, meat, fish and poultry are also good sources of protein.
Ages 1 to 3:
1/4 cup dried beans/legumes that have been cooked
20g of cheese
30g of meat, fish or poultry
Ages 4 to 6
1/3 cup dried beans/legumes that have been cooked
1/3 cup of paneer
30g of cheese
2 tablespoons of nut butter
30g to 60g of meat, fish or poultry
Ages 7 to 11:
1/2 cup dried beans/legumes that have been cooked
1/2 cup of paneer
30g to 60g of cheese
3 tablespoons of nut butter
60g to 90g of meat, fish or poultry
Kids Nutrition: Dairy
Dairy is an excellent source of calcium. Children need about three servings of dairy such as milk or yoghurt every day.
Ages 1 to 3: 1/2 to 3/4 cup
Ages 4 to 6: 3/4 cup
Ages 7 to 11: 1 cup
Kids Nutrition: Fats
Fats such as oils, ghee and butter are necessary but should be chosen wisely and in the right amounts. Fatty foods should be eaten in moderation as excess can lead to unhealthy weight gain and childhood obesity.
"Children need one to three servings of fat a day."
Ages 1 to 3: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Ages 4 to 6: 1 teaspoon
Ages 7 to 11: 1 tablespoon
Kids Nutrition: Sugars
Foods with high amounts of sugar like sweets, cakes and cookies should be consumed as little as possible, it’s not beneficial to kids' nutrition. Refined sugar + refined flour is a combination that will leave kids smiling, but full of empty calories and little to no nutrition and fibre. Servings of desserts and sweets should be small, and limited to a few times a week.
Desi sweets are preferable as they are slightly healthier, like moong dal halwa, gajar halwa or kheer. Laddoos made using jaggery, coconut and til are also a good option to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth.
What Should A Child Not Eat?
As parents, we all know that children should not be consuming high amounts of refined sugar, excess fats and refined flours. Chemical sweeteners and additives are to be avoided, especially the kind that lurk in biscuits, cookies, candy, ice cream and lollipops. Aerated beverages are also harmful for kids' nutrition, as well as most packaged and processed foods.
But there are certain foods within this spectrum that are a strict no-no for children.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Packaged Breakfast Cereals
We’ve seen them: ragi bites, whole-wheat chocolate flakes, honey-flavoured wheat loops - they claim to have the benefits of millets and grains, but they come loaded with added sugars. The scant nutritional value and fibre they contain is completely offset by the heavy dose of sugar and added flavours. Instead of feeding your child a bowl of chocolate flakes that profess to have the “goodness of roti,” you’re better off feeding him/her a plain parantha topped with some ghee and jaggery - this is much better for kids’ nutritional needs.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Processed Meats
We’ve been fed the Western lie of a perfect English or American breakfast for far too long - eggs, sausages, bacon and toast, as a way to get proteins and carbohydrates and take care of kids' nutrition in the morning.
While sausages, bacon and salami are convenient, they are among the worst forms of protein to consume! These “proteins” are full of fat, sodium, nitrates and preservatives. They may be tasty (anything with excess salt and flavour enhancers will be), but these meats increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity later in life.
Simple Indian akoori or anda bhurji with whole wheat paranthas or whole grain toast will give you carbohydrates and proteins in whole, unprocessed form.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Canned Fish
Fish are a good source of lean protein (essential for kids’ nutrition), and some contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are an important nutrient. However, some fish, which have a higher mercury content, like mackerel and tuna, are best avoided by children, especially in canned form. Fish that are high in mercury can affect the nervous system of young children. Canned forms of these fish are usually preserved in a lot of salt and oil anyway, so opt for fresh-caught local Indian fish like pomfret, rohu, rawas, etc. These can be pan-fried with a little masala or filleted and pan-fried with a coating of sooji/rava.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Flash-Fried Frozen Foods
Another convenient food that’s popular at parties and promoted as the ideal after-school snack, flash-fried frozen foods - like chicken nuggets, fish fingers, French fries, potato bites, cheese poppers, corn & cheese nuggets, veggie nuggets - are just plain bad for kids nutrition and their system.
The frozen nuggets contain large amounts of sodium, saturated fat and preservatives. They are also made using poor quality scraps of meat, fish and vegetables. Generally, all these breaded nuggets are flash-fried - a process where the nugget is fried prior to freezing to make the bread crumbs stick to it - which makes the calorie count and fat content too high for kids. A much better option for a crispy, chatpata after-school snack would be home-made aloo tikkis with mint chutney, or aloo chaat.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Microwave Popcorn
Popcorn is a good snack to have - if consumed the right way. Microwave popcorn packets are easily available in Indian grocery stores today and they come together in a matter of minutes. But they contain harmful chemicals and loads of salt. They contain a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, that has been linked to late puberty, cancer, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol in kids.
Instead, take the time to buy corn kernels and “pop” them yourself on the stovetop using coconut oil, ghee or good-quality butter. It will take longer than zapping it in the microwave for a minute, but it’s MUCH healthier, and you can control the amount of fat and salt that goes into it. Homemade popcorn is much better for kids' nutrition.
Kids Nutrition: Avoid Sports Drinks
There is a strange notion that kids can drink sports drinks like Gatorade, especially if they are active and are into sports. This couldn’t be further from the truth! These drinks have not been formulated keeping kids' nutrition in mind, and are meant for people who have just clocked in an intense workout and need quick calories and electrolytes to recover.
If your child is active and plays sports regularly, give him/her fresh fruits and water instead of any kind of sports drink or packaged juice - these will work well to replace and replenish vitamins and minerals. Opt for nimbu paani, nariyal paani, etc.
However, we also need to take into account that kids tend to get exposed to these kinds of foods in some way or the other - at parties and celebrations, through advertisements and even at the grocery store where they are enticingly stacked within arm’s reach. As parents, you can make children understand that these are not “real foods” but “fake foods”, with very little real kids nutrition. And make an effort to NOT serve these foods at home, or as little as possible.
What To Do If Your Child Is Not Eating
Daily nutrition for kids is important, as we’ve mentioned above - what do you do if your child is not eating? This can happen at various stages of a child’s life. And many kids go through phases of poor eating, or refusing to eat a certain type of food, which can be challenging for parents.
Here are a few techniques you can use to get your picky eater to help - some simple advice on what to do if your child is not eating.
Set a routine: Serve meals and snacks at the same time each day. This helps you get some nutrition into your child. If your child skips or refuses to eat at one meal, then perhaps snack time will give you an opportunity to give him or her a fruit or snack that’s healthy. Milk, milkshakes and fresh homemade juices can also be given at snack time.
Don’t make them a separate meal if they refuse to eat what’s served: As a parent you may feel anxiety over the fact that your child is not eating - but preparing something entirely different when they refuse to eat what’s already been made will only promote further picky eating behaviour. Kids nutrition should be the priority, not pleasing them at every meal.
Be patient: Young children take time to get acquainted with new foods, their taste, texture and smell. They may have a taste and spit it out, or not eat it. Be a little patient and introduce new foods to them slowly, in different forms. Pumpkin, for example, can be steamed, baked or made into a soup for your kids nutrition needs.
Make it fun: It may take a few minutes more of your time, but cutting fruits and vegetables into cute shapes with a cookie cutter, or making rotis in various shapes can make mealtimes fun. Plating foods in fun ways and colourful dishes can also encourage your child to take interest in their food and eat more.
Get creative: One of the best ways to incorporate vegetables into your child’s food is to puree them into a sauce or dip - steamed broccoli can be made into a sauce for pasta, fruits can be added to milkshakes and smoothies, and paranthas can be filled with all manner of vegetables, from cauliflower to zucchini. These are easy ways to make your kids’ nutrition fun and tasty.
Get your kids to help: Perhaps the most effective way to get your kids excited about food is to involve them in the process. And there are plenty of ways to get your kids to help in the kitchen without using sharp tools or the gas stove. Ask them to help you knead aata for roti. Get them to mash some boiled aloo for paranthas. Ask them to squeeze nimbu over kachumber. Or get them to mix together dahi and salt for raita. You can also get your kids to stir a pot on the stove under supervision.
Switch off all distractions: These days, with so much distraction available across screens of all shapes and sizes, many parents find the easiest way to feed their kids is to set them down in front of the TV or laptop. It may seem easier to shovel food into their mouths while they are watching their favourite cartoon, but this is not a good practice in the long run. Keep gadgets away during meals, sit down together as a family, have a chat about the food that’s been cooked and other things. Bring the focus back to the food and they will learn how to appreciate what’s on their plate.
When kids are picky eaters, sometimes, giving them something crunchy and even sweet can work - and this can be done in a healthy way with simple swaps for chips and chocolates. As we move into summer holidays, the easing of COVID restrictions and road trips with your kids, choose healthy snacks like makhana and whole grain muesli to have in the car and share with your kids.
Nutrition Chart For Kids From Nutrition By Lovneet
Parents often come up to us with the query as to what the best nutritional supplement for kids is. The answer - a balanced, wholesome diet is better than any supplement out there! We understand the importance of kids nutrition, and have plans catering to kids and teens.
We prescribe desi foods that are palatable, accessible and fun to eat. There’s a lot to be gained from eating local foods and fruits and vegetables native to our land and culture - and there’s plenty of nutrition in our indigenous varieties of grains, cereals and millets.
We offer children and teenage kids nutrition programs. We believe the best diet plan is one which helps children understand and accept new foods in an interesting and healthy manner, something that is flexible and makes mealtimes fun. The aim is to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food, for life.
A good diet not only keeps children active and happy, but also helps them develop better immune systems, a healthy gut, and better muscle development. A healthy eating plan/nutrition chart for kids can help teenagers curb obesity, which is a growing problem these days thanks to the easy availability of processed foods and fast food outlets at almost every corner! A healthy diet plan doesn’t just address issues of weight and obesity in teenagers, it also reduces the chances of developing disorders later in life.
With over ten years of specialisation in child and teenage behaviour and nutrition, Lovneet Batra creates no deprivation, custom-designed nourishing meal plans revolving around the parent and child’s lifestyle, culture, food preferences, and daily routines. The meal plan is set keeping all their favourite cuisines in mind, with modifications in combinations.
We also make an effort to educate parents and moms about nutrition so they can make better decisions when it comes to the eating habits of their kids. Parents, after all, set the foundation of healthy habits at home and we know that it can get taxing figuring out what to make to keep your kids healthy and free of complaints!
To learn more about the plan, visit our page here.
Why is kids' nutrition important?
Good nutrition at a young age will help establish a solid foundation for healthy eating as an adult. Eating good, wholesome meals at home in childhood also empowers your little one with nutritional knowledge they can carry forward later in life.
What should kids eat?
Kids should eat a balanced diet with the three main types of foods: Energy-giving foods like carbohydrates and fats, body-building foods namely proteins and protective/immunity boosting foods, which are vitamins and minerals.
How much food should kids eat each day?
The amount of food a child should eat varies depending on their age, gender, activity levels etc. But in general, it should be a balanced diet with adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables and calcium. You can refer to the charts above for an adequate idea of how much is required at each age.
What food should kids avoid?
Excessive amounts of refined sugar and refined flours are not recommended for children, along with large amounts of packaged and processed foods. Frozen nuggets, microwave popcorn, processed meat, canned fish, sugary packaged breakfast cereals and sports drinks should also be avoided.
What can you do if your child is not eating?
Kids nutrition can be tricky. You need to be patient with picky eaters. For smaller children, introduce new foods slowly. With older children, you can get them to help you in the kitchen so that they learn more about the food they are eating - this may encourage them to eat more. You can also get creative by cutting food into fun shapes or pureeing vegetables into sauces for pastas, and adding fruits to milkshakes.