What are the nutritious foods for children up to six years
For a human body to remain healthy and active, it is necessary to have proper nourishment. The lack of nutritious food in sufficient quantities affects the physical development of children, and also hinders their mental and social development. The Global Hunger Index 2020 report ranks India at 94th place out of 107 countries, which clearly shows the urgent need for improvement in food security in India. The United Nations stated in a press release that the number of children under five years of age who die every year due to malnutrition in India is more than ten million. In this context, to prevent malnutrition, children need nourishing food.
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The most essential need for infants is nourishment with high-quality food, which is primarily because this is the time for their physical growth and development. Infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months, and breastfed within 30 minutes after birth, and the first milk (colostrum) should not be discarded as it boosts the infant’s disease resistance capacity.
Breastfeeding ensures safe nutrition for the infant and is also helpful in its overall development. Breast milk is the most excellent natural and nutritious food for the physical and mental development of infants. Infants who are breastfed do not require additional water.
According to the report of the World Health Organization, infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and then continuously breastfed along with complementary food for two years and beyond.
In a special conversation with India Science Wire, Dr R Hemalatha, Director of the National Institute of Nutrition in Telangana, revealed that breastfeeding an infant within 30 minutes after birth is essential. She also mentioned the necessity of taking many precautions regarding the diet during the first six months of an infant’s birth, such as not giving honey and water for six months and avoiding cow’s milk and solid food for the first year.
Providing infants with nourishing food such as milk from lactating animals and dairy products like cheese and yogurt is advantageous, as well as fresh fruit, fruit juices, lentils, lentil soup, leafy green vegetables, and porridge during their age span. When children reach the age of one, they enter the toddler stage. This is the phase when children are highly active, learn to feed themselves, and begin to develop their taste preferences. Toddlerhood is an important time for physical growth, brain development, and building immunity against infections. Therefore, it is crucial for children to receive a diet that is rich in energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Dr. Hemlata explained that the diet of children between one to three years of age should include 75 grams of grains, 25 grams of pulses, 100 grams of vegetables, 75 grams of fruits, 400 milliliters of milk, 25 grams of fat, and so on. Whereas, for children between four to six years of age, the diet should consist of 120 grams of grains, 45 grams of pulses, 100 grams of vegetables, 75 grams of fruits, 400 milliliters of milk, 25 grams of fat, and so on.
To promote optimal growth and immunity in children, it is essential to follow appropriate dietary guidelines.
Dr. Hemlata has conveyed that optimal nutrition during childhood is fundamental for good health and development. Insufficient intake of macronutrients and micronutrients can put children at risk of various infections and hinder their mental and physical growth, which can have adverse effects.
Nowadays, children tend to lean towards junk food more often. Therefore, it is crucial to motivate them to consume nutritious food. Most children have the habit of consuming unnecessary food, which leads to various long-term health complications such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. In this regard, it becomes extremely important to instill the habit of appropriate nutrition in children from an early age and make them aware of its significance.