Proper Nutrition for Growing Children

By – Supriya

Growing child needs a complete mix of balanced diet for proper growth of body and mind. As children grow, there is an increased interest and participation in other activities , which compete with mealtimes . Healthy children with proper nutrition exude more self confidence , have higher energy levels and are more alert than malnourished children. Growing child requires proteins and carbohydrates for developing muscles and bones, and vitamins and minerals to build the immune system to facilitate proper growth. Proteins help build muscles and strength of the body. Calcium is required for developing bones, in absence of which a child will have weak bones. Active children burn a lot of calories every day because they play more; for these children adequate proportion of carbohydrates is also required on daily basis. Vitamins are essential to the growing body; they help with digestion , energy, immunity, alertness, cell division and growth. Vitamin A is good for eyes , Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, fight stress, and keep skin, hair and nails healthy and Vitamin D is important for strong bones, and teeth. Iodine helps prevent developmental delays and iron is essential because it is a carrier of oxygen throughout the body and gives mental alertness. The Recommendation Dietary Allowance ( RDAs) represent levels of intake of essential nutrients that , on the basis of scientific knowledge ,are judged by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, to be adequate to meet the nutrient needs of practically all healthy persons . Normally a child between 15-18 years needs around 2500 calories every day for his energy requirement on daily basis, depending on his age and activity level. While a girl requires 44 grams of protein per day, dietary requirements of proteins for a school going boy is around 56 grams. Even fats should be included in the diet but unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats should be preferred. In addition , consumption of Vital vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water is also essential . In fact , school going children between 14- 18 years old require more calcium and iron than adults to meet skeletal growth demand and adequate blood volume.

Since no single food group can nourish the body with all the vital ingredients it requires, it is important to consume a veriety of healthy foods to derive the nutrition the body needs . Food groups that can be consumed to fulfill nutritional requirement are fruits , vegetables ,cereals and pulses, dairy products , poultry, fish and meat products. The best sources of carbohydrates – whole grains , rice and brown bread – promote good health and also provide vitamins , minerals , fiber , and a host of other important nutrients. Protein is abundantly found in milk , fish, meat and pulses. Milk is also required for supplementing calcium requirements of the body. Green vegetables and fruits are prime sources of vitamin A, vitamin C , iron , vitamin E and fibres. Instead of butter , biscuits or fried foods , fatty fish, walnuts , and canola oil can be tried ,as apart from fats they are also good source of omega -3 fatty acids.

Breakfast gives an opportunity to refuel the body after sleep , and benefits of healthy breakfast cannot be ignored , especially for students . A good healthy breakfast should have enough protein to keep one feeling full and to support muscle . Oat meal, fruit juice, soya milk , papaya , almonds, bananas, and sandwiches with stuffing of vegetables are all healthy and tasty options. A cup of dry cereal – whole grain and not overly sweetened – is also a good alternative. Lunch is also important for children as it gives them the stamina for problem solving and better memory during learning hours at school. Carbohydrates rich lunch comprising of chapattis ,rice,curd, vegetables like turnip green, sea vegetables , sweet potatoes , animal lever, fish, pumpkin, soya, pulses or salad can be given. Dinner should include less carbohydrates and more protein and roughage. Soups, grilled chicken breast, brown rice , broccoli, spinach , beans, peas, cabbage,carrots,tomatoes, pulses or similar such things would make for a great low – calorie dinner. It is important to encourage healthy habits in children so that their intake of nutrients for energy and development is optimum. A healthy balanced diet comprising all essential nutrients – carbohydrates , proteins, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and water will ensure that the child grows to full potential.

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