Top food components for growing kids: Nutrients that must be in a child's plate

Updated on Nov 29, 2022 05:13 PM IST

Despite parents best efforts, they sometimes fail to analyze the nutrition deficiencies that their kids have. A healthy diet for children should include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein. Here's a list of nutritional food items that are highly recommended for children

Top food components for growing kids: Nutrients that must be in a child's plate (Alex Green)
Top food components for growing kids: Nutrients that must be in a child's plate (Alex Green)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

The principle of nutrition applies to both children and adults but children, unlike adults, require varying amounts of particular nutrients at various ages where the ideal feeding schedule for a child's growth and development takes into account the child's age, level of activity and other factors. A balanced diet helps your child maintain their energy levels, maintain strong bones, support their mental health, encourage a healthy weight and enhance the immunity levels.

Every parent aims for their child to consume a balanced diet but despite their best efforts, they sometimes fail to analyze the nutrition deficiencies that their kids have. Carefully monitoring a child's diet is important to support healthy development and maintain stable growth.

Regular growth assessment is helpful in maintaining adequate dietary intake and physical growth. According to Harvard University's School of Public Health, a healthy diet for children should include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Apoorva Joshi, Nutritionist at Humm Care, revealed that for children's growth and well-being, there are two types of nutrients required- type 1 and type 2:

  • Type 1 nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, etc. are stored in the body, and hence in case of deficiency, no immediate symptoms are seen. Only when the body uses up the stores, do symptoms start appearing and growth may be affected.
  • Type 2 nutrients like essential amino acids, sulphur, zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids, etc. are required to form new cells and tissues, especially for a child's growth. In case of deficiency of these, the body conserves these nutrients, and stores are not used. As a result, the child's growth slows down immediately. So, the essential components that must be a part of a child's plate daily are foods rich in type 2 nutrients.

She recommended the following 4 top foods that must make it to a child's plate regularly:

1. Eggs are an excellent source of both type 1 and type 2 nutrients. When eaten with the yolk, they act as a nutrient powerhouse for the child and fulfill the daily requirement of many nutrients.

2. Nuts and seeds are the best sources of essential fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium. They deliver a significant amount of growth nutrients even when eaten in small quantities. Hence, they should be added to children's plates regularly in the form of whole nuts and seeds or powders, nut butter or snacky foods like chikki or fudge bites made from them.

3. Pulses like soybean, chickpeas, moong, etc. are good sources of amino acids, folates, magnesium, and more. They are very versatile and can be paired with grains like wheat, rice, ragi, etc. in meals for a complete amino acid profile.

4. Oily fish are the best sources of essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA. The brain grows to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and reaches 90% by age 5. EPA and DHA play a key role in a child's brain development.

Parul Sharma, Co-Founder of Gladful, recommended five nutrients that are a must on a child’s plate -

1. Protein: There are many myths and misconceptions around this particular macronutrients. More than 73% of urban kids are deficient in protein. In reality, protein produces the enzymes that generate many chemical reactions and powers oxygenation. It is a critical macronutrient that provides both essential and nonessential amino acids required for sustaining all body functions and procedures, providing the structural basis to maintain life and healthy development and growth in children.

2. Carbohydrates: We have seen many adults run away from crabs, and sometimes even young kids are also prohibited to consume this essential macro. Sugars, starches, and fibers are three types of carbohydrates. Kids need carbs to make energy. For an organ that takes up only two percent of the body mass, the brain utilizes up to 20 percent of energy. Starchy foods, whole-grain bread, fibers in vegetables and fruits are the best sources of complex carbohydrates. These release energy slowly and maintain optimal brain functioning.

3. Healthy fats: Young kids require essential healthy fats in their diet for stable brain development. Fat is used in the body as fuel and helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. Unsaturated fats are known to be the healthiest fats. They include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are crucial for brain, nerve, and eye development in infants.

4. Iron: Iron is necessary to build healthy blood that carries oxygen to cells all over the body. It's also vital for growth and development, immune functioning and wound healing. Iron deficiency known as anemia can lead to cognitive and motor delays. The daily requirement for iron is greater in early childhood than during adulthood. Your child's iron needs range from 7 to 15 milligrams per day, depending on his gender and age.

5. Calcium: We all know the importance of calcium in bone development and strengthening. It is also responsible for muscle functioning, intracellular signalling, nerve transmission and hormone secretion. For growing children, getting enough calcium is crucial to build bone mass, which may help guard against osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

Bringing his expertise to the same, Subhadeep Dasgupta, Head of Brand at Gritzo, listed some nutritional food items that are highly recommended for children:

1. Dry fruits and nuts - Nuts and dry fruits have a high content of micronutrients that helps in the proper growth of the children. Nuts and dried fruits have qualities that ensure brain development and offer immunity to children for leading an active life. Talking about dry fruits, raisins and walnuts are the greatest antioxidant content foods which are also packed with fiber and protein. These foods are vital for enhancing brain function by enhancing memory and stimulating brain cell activity.

2. Proteins - Protein is required for a child's body to create new cells, break down food into energy, ward off infections, and carry oxygen. The availability of foods like cottage cheese, beans, soy nuggets, and paneer guarantees that kids' bodies get enough protein. Even though every parent makes sure their kids eat the recommended amount of protein, kids frequently don't get enough of it. Thus, including meals high in protein becomes crucial. For example, in addition to milk consumption, numerous health drinks can undoubtedly satisfy any child's additional protein demand.

3. Cereals and pulses - The iron, potassium, and fiber found in pulses and legumes help children feel fuller for a longer time by promoting satiety. It's a highly recommended food item when preparing meals for children. Given its high nutritious content, it ought to be served to kids as part of at least one of their regular meals.

4. Fruits and veggies - Fruits and vegetables are abundant in dietary fiber, bioactive substances, and important micronutrients. Natural sugars like fructose and glucose can be found in fruits and vegetables. Both of these sugars are concentrated energy sources that can be used in place of processed foods high in sugar, such as sweets, colas, and cakes. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are rich in minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and copper as well as vitamin C. Oranges are a great source of vitamin C and help prevent a number of common illnesses, including children's constipation and colds. Developing a robust immune system by regularly consuming fruits and vegetables helps to enhance healthy gut function. Children can be given fruits in the morning in raw form or blended with smoothies, while vegetables can be served at dinner time either steamed or sautéed alongside the main course.

5. Whole grains - Whole grains are incredibly nutrient-dense, and their carbohydrates give growing and energetic young bodies the desired energy they need to function. Choosing from so many alternatives might be challenging. Hence, we recommend choosing whole grains, such as oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa or brown or wild rice.

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