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    Balanced Diet, Nutrition For Children, Adolescents: What To Eat, How Much To Eat

    By Anam Khan
    5 Mar'22  7 min read
    Balanced Diet, Nutrition For Children, Adolescents: What To Eat, How Much To Eat
    Synopsis

    What should you put on your child’s dinner plate? A balanced diet is key for the growth and development of your child. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a set of guidelines on what a healthy diet must be composed of. But there is more to health and nutrition than getting all the five food groups. Careers360 explains what to eat, how much, how often and what other food-related factors affect growth and development of children and adolescents. 

    Balanced Diet, Nutrition For Children, Adolescents: What To Eat, How Much To Eat
    Synopsis

    What should you put on your child’s dinner plate? A balanced diet is key for the growth and development of your child. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a set of guidelines on what a healthy diet must be composed of. But there is more to health and nutrition than getting all the five food groups. Careers360 explains what to eat, how much, how often and what other food-related factors affect growth and development of children and adolescents. 

    The importance of eating healthy for maintaining a healthy lifestyle cannot be emphasized enough. Unless you maintain a proper diet, you might be prone to diseases, fatigue, or exhaustion. Growing children and adolescents need a proper diet consisting of various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to meet their growth and development needs. Lack of proper nutrition results in diseases such as rickets, anaemia, mumps and night blindness. Therefore, it is essential for parents to give their children a balanced diet containing enough nutrients to meet their growth requirements.

    Balanced Diet

    A well-formulated balanced diet is necessary for children and adolescents to achieve optimum growth and boost their immunity. A balanced diet, along with playing outdoors and physical activities, is essential for optimum body composition, reduction in risk of diet-related chronic conditions, and prevention of vitamin deficiency.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has laid out five key guidelines on achieving a balanced diet. These are given below:

    1. Eat roughly the same amount of calories that your body uses. Healthy Body Weight = “Calories In”- “Calories Out”.
    2. Eat a lot of plant foods: vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and nuts.
    3. Limit your intake of fats, preferring the healthier unsaturated fats to saturated fats and trans fats.
    4. Limit your intake of granulated sugar to, ideally, less than 10g/day.
    5. Limit salt/sodium consumption from all sources

    Calories: Requirement For Children, Adolescents

    Children and adolescents need a lot of calories to support their growth and development. A child or adolescent will need around 2,200-3,000 calories each day, depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Generally, boys need more calories than girls, and children who engage in more physical activities will require more calories.

    However, parents need to be careful about the source of calories and ensure they come from healthy food. Junk food provides a lot of calories, but very few nutrients.

    Examples of such food items are:

    • Processed food such as chocolates, biscuits
    • Cakes, pizza and cookies
    • Carbonated drinks such as colas
    • Packaged fruit drinks with added sugar
    • Ice cream
    • Chips, crackers and fries

    Although they taste good and are high in calories, they have poor nutritional value and might result in problems such as obesity in your children.

    Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals

    A balanced diet must always contain five major components required for the proper functioning of the body - Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins and Minerals. Apart from these five components, having plenty of Fibre (Roughage) and Water is also very important, as they are essential for various body processes.

    Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source and provide energy for vital organs. Fats give the body energy, protect organs, support cell growth and keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and help the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Proteins are needed for muscle building, repair and growth, and building antibodies. Having high-fibre foods helps in maintaining bowel health and lowers cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. A child needs vitamins and minerals for the body to function properly and to boost the immune system.

    Listed below are the ways in which mineral and vitamin-rich foods help our bodies:

    • Vitamin A: Vision
    • Vitamin B: Heart function
    • Vitamin C: Immunity
    • Vitamin E: Blood clotting
    • Vitamin K: Blood clotting and bone building
    • Vitamin D: Bone growth and development and calcium absorption
    • Calcium: Bone growth, iron- blood function,
    • Potassium: Nervous system
    • Iodine: Hormonal balance and brain development

    In addition to having all the essential nutrients, a balanced diet should also be able to meet the daily calorie requirements, so you do not feel exhausted.

    Children should eat three-to-four meals a day, comprising food items from the following groups:

    • Grains
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Fats and oils
    • Milk and dairy products
    • Meats and beans

    Balanced Diet For Teenagers, Children

    A balanced diet would include a mix of the following groups and food items.

    Grains: Grains are rich in carbohydrates that provide energy for a child’s normal growth and development. A child’s diet should include a wide variety of whole grains such as bajra, jowar, millets, ragi, brown rice and whole wheat, as well as high-fibre varieties of bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, and oats. However, they should exclude refined grain food products, such as breakfast cereals, that contain high levels of added sugar, fat (particularly saturated fats), and/or salt or sodium-rich products like biscuits. Grains are also fibre-rich foods and sources of protein, and various vitamins and minerals.

    Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of micronutrients such as iron, calcium, Vitamin A, B, C, carotenoids, and phytochemicals, and macronutrients like complex carbohydrates or fibre. Kids should eat a variety of vegetables and fruits with different colours for a full range of nutrients. This will help their bodies to function properly and boost their immune system.

    Dark-green leafy vegetables, yellow, orange-coloured vegetables, and fruits such as carrots, papaya and mangoes are good sources of Vitamin A. Citrus fruits such as orange, lemon and grapefruits are rich in Vitamin C. Green, leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamin E. Spinach and cabbage contain Vitamin K. Green vegetables are also rich in Potassium, Sodium, and Iron.

    While some vegetables and fruits provide very few calories, others provide calories in generous amounts as these are rich in starch including potato, sweet potato, and banana. Therefore, vegetables and fruits can be used to increase or decrease calories in the diet.

    Children should ideally have five portions of fruits and vegetables daily to meet their dietary and growth requirements. Further, they should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in a diet plan as different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients (phytochemicals).

    Fats and Oils: Fats and oils are a concentrated source of energy and play a very important role in brain development. There are two categories of sources: animal fats and vegetable fats. Animal fats include ghee, butter, cheese, eggs, and fat from meat and fish. They contain cholesterol and high amounts of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids. Vegetable fats come from the seeds of certain plants such as groundnut, mustard, sesame, coconut, canola, olive, and soya bean.

    Fatty foods are often associated with obesity, heart disease, and stroke, but eating the right fats can provide the body with health benefits. A general rule of thumb is that fats from vegetables and fish oils should be encouraged, while animal fats such as ghee, butter, cheese, etc. should be taken in limited quantities. However, processed foods should be avoided at all costs.

    Milk and dairy products: They are an excellent source of Vitamin A, D, B1, B2, and B12 and minerals, calcium in particular. This is especially important for children and adolescents whose bone mass development is in progress and, therefore, need calcium-rich food. Children and adolescents must have plenty of milk and milk products as calcium is needed for their growth and bone development.

    Meats and Beans: Meats, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are all high-protein foods. Meat is also a good source of Vitamin B12 and Iron. An iron-rich diet will help prevent iron deficiency anaemia. This is a common condition found in children and can result in low energy levels and pallor. Meat can be replaced with vegetarian alternatives such as soya beans, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghourt, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds, to meet dietary requirements

    Food to avoid: Nowadays, children are more inclined towards junk food but it is very important to motivate your children, especially those in their teenage years, to eat nutrition-rich, healthy foods. Many children have poor eating habits, which can lead to various long-term health complications, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and bone ailments. Always prefer homemade food over fast food. The menu can be changed frequently to avoid boredom. Also, children should not overeat at any point of time, but eat at frequent intervals.

    Habits, Hygiene, Physical Activities

    A balanced diet alone cannot guarantee health. Children and youths must make a range of ‘healthy’ choices as well. Given below are a few of those:

    • Avoiding smoking, chewing tobacco, and alcohol
    • Pursue outdoor activities and sports
    • Maintain basic hygiene — brushing teeth twice a day, washing hands before meals among others, ensuring cleanliness while preparing and serving meals
    • Drinking 2— 2.5 litres of water daily. Water, buttermilk, lassi, freshly-squeezed fruit juices, and coconut water are better than soft drinks and other packaged drinks

    Healthy Diet Hack

    A healthy diet for your kids will combine all the nutrients and food groups mentioned above in a balanced way. A handy way to remember how much of each food group to eat could be following this method of doing up a plate:

    • Fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables
    • Fill just over one quarter with grains
    • Fill just under one quarter with high- protein foods
    • Add dairy products on the side
    • Health
    • Food
    • Determinants of health
    • Food and drink
    • Nutrition
    • Foods
    • Fat
    • Diet (nutrition)
    • Carbohydrate

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