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Nutrition in children is often inadequate in India

We all know that malnutrition in children is a big problem in India , but we tend to think of malnutrition as a poor people’s problem. That is not actually true! Indian children, even those from affluent families, have high rate of Iron , vitamin D,  calcium deficiency, vitamin A and protein deficiency

On the other hand the problem of childhood obesity and associated health risks is also growing rapidly in India

In addition, childhood is the time when good habits can be formed for life, so it is important to give your child a healthy start in diet. Below are some tips on healthy eating for children

Things are important in ensuring a healthy diet for children

  • Children need more protein/kg body weight than adults, all through childhood and adolescence, therefore special care should be taken so that they get enough proteins
  • They need more fat than adults because fat makes the food energy dense without increasing the bulk of food. But , you should take care that
    • Children should not get too much butter or ghee (up to 2-3 teaspoons/day may be alright but not necessary). This will help in keeping saturated fat intake in check. Sat fats  should provide only up to 8-10% of total calories
    • Children get enough omega 3 fatty acids:  give fish and seafood at least two times a week. If you are vegetarians, consume omega 3 rich oils and foods such as canola oil, soybean oil, fenugreek seed, flaxseeds etc.
    • Monitor the weight and BMI of your child periodically. If your child becomes overweight reduce the amount of fat and sugars in the diet
  • Children are at risk for deficiency of  calcium, iron, iodine,  zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin D and vitamin B12; children need these in significant amounts for adequate growth and if the diet fails to provide for these adequately, subtle impairment of growth and increased chances of infections happen

Ways to ensuring adequate nutrition in children

  • Give at least 500 ml milk, give reduced fat milk
  • One teaspoon of iodized salt in a day in cooked food, salad etc.
  • Adequate exposure to sunlight (10-30 minutes on exposed face, neck, arms at least every day)
  • Eating all kinds of vegetables: root and tubers, green leafy, orange red and other vegetables and variety of fruits
  • Dals and green leafy vegetables along with lemon juice or other source of vitamin C
  • Eggs and animal protein, if possible or soy products such as tofu, soya chunks or granules
  • Health drinks provide fortification of all these nutrients, so adding them may help you feel a bit more confident, see comparison table of popular health drinks here
  • Anti-helminthic drug every half yearly (albendazole, single kid dose)

Healthy eating for children: forming healthy habits

  • Limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats such as colas, chips, cakes, ice cream etc.; an easy way to do this is not to store these things at home and allow their consumption on outings only
  • Introduce healthy substitutes such as frozen yogurt for ice cream, flavored carbonated water for colas, nuts for chips
  • Try to give less processed food rather than processed ones, such as whole fruits instead of juices, brown rice, whole wheat or whole grain bread etc.
  • Do not deny absolutely, instead restrict intake of food stuff which children like but which are unhealthy in large amounts, e.g. limit juices to 150-180 ml/day, butter to 1-2 tea spoons etc.

Get Food FHI healthy diet plan for your child

Check out: Food FHI references for children’s health