Child development is the spell of physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth. The early foundation years sets standards for the learning, growth and development of the child from birth to 6 years of age. The personality and traits of child will depend upon how his foundation years were, so these early years are very important. Each child grows and develops at different pace, so it is hard to define what is “normal”. Genetics, nutrition, physical activity impacts the growth of toddler. According to UNICEF report 46% of preschool children in India suffer from moderate to severe grades of protein-energy malnutrition. To set a right foundation first time moms should know everything about the healthy foods for toddlers and ways to include these foods in their daily meals in order to give them a balanced diet.
Each child needs specialized nutrition, so it is important to start early for an age appropriate nutrition. Toddler growth specialist suggest that a healthy diet for children is comprised of high protein, moderate carbohydrates, balanced fat, their diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals and should also contain sufficient DHA since DHA is very important for child’s brain development. Tailor-made nutrition is essential so that the special needs of child can be taken care of. These smart nutrients when included in the diet properly will build up immunity for toddlers and also make Smart and Active Children.
Even though the fussy eating habits of children concerns the parents, it is always advised that the child should not be forced to eat.
Role of Nutrients in Early Growth and Development:
Carbohydrates: For kids, 40% to 60% of calories should be derived from carbohydrates. The main key is to make sure that the maximum of these carbohydrates are derived from good sources.
Children should be fed a wide variety of nutritious carbohydrates. Include low GI foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and choose whole grain cereals as these provide more fibre,vitamins and minerals, and contain natural sugars.
Proteins: Proteins are important for growth, building, maintaining, and repairing of the tissues in the body. For a Preschooler, nutrition should be adequate and at least 20-25 gms of protein is required per day for proper growth and development. Protein needs of a toddler can be met by feeding them lentils, milk and milk products, poultry and meats.
Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins means Vital for Life. Minerals and vitamins are the compounds used by the body to grow, to see, to construct skin, hair, bones and muscles, form blood and builds immunity. During foundations years if these nutrients are not included properly in the diet can lead to deficiencies later. To ensure that your child receives adequate minerals and vitamins for normal growth and development is to provide a broad variety of fresh foods from all the five food groups. Include whole grain cereals like whole wheat chapati, whole wheat breads, fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, meat, poultry, seeds, nuts and legumes, and dairy foods like milk, cheese and curd. These foods will fulfill their requirement of minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron and also supply vitamins – B, C, A, D, E and K.
Fats: Foundation years are the years of brain development and fat plays an important role. In recent years, fat has been wrongly accused of being bad.Too much consumption of fat is bad, but certain kind of fats are essential for the human body.
For kids foods like potato chips, chocolates, cakes, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, cookies and biscuits are common source of fat. Kids also get fat from whole-milk products.
Besides supplying fuel and energy for the body, fats perform the following functions:
Fats help the body absorb fat soluble vitamins like Vit A, D, E, and K. This means they can only be absorbed in the presence of fat in the body.
Fats are the building blocks of hormones
Fats are required to insulate the nervous system tissues of the body.
Fats helps in brain development.
Fats give satiety.
DHA: DHA, docosahexaenoic acid is a omega-3 fatty acid. It is one of the good fats found in the human body. DHA is to our brains as calcium is to our bones. Without DHA brain cannot develop and function properly. In fact, optimal infant brain and eye development and function entirely depends on DHA.
Since human bodies do not produce the DHA required by us, we need it through external sources like food, beverages or supplements. The brain never outgrows its need for DHA so it has to be supplemented through health drinks.
Fluids: Fluid intake should be higher for children as they require more hydration in comparison to the adults. Generally kids do not identify the early signs of thirst which can make them vulnerable to dehydration. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, tiredness, lack of concentration, reduced mental performance and dry-flaky skin. The fluid intake greatly depends on their age, gender, weather and the kind of physical activity they indulge into. Kids aged 3-6 years are advised to drink approximately 5-6 glasses of water. Although younger children requires relatively small drinks.
Whether you have an infant, toddler or preschooler, here are five strategies to improve early childhood nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:
- Always have regular family meals.
- Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
- Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.
- Do not use food to punish or reward the child.
- Involve kids in the food preparing.
Inculcating positive eating behaviour during early childhood will train up the child with healthy eating habits for life. Developing a positive connection with food, as well as a balanced approach to eating, can improve kids eating habits. This approach will come with better health outcomes in the long run.