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Diet For Children (1 To 6 years)
A balanced and adequate diet is required to supply the nutrients and energy needed for the growing child. The requirement of all nutrients is increased, but the pattern of increase varies for different nutrients in relation to their role in growth of specific tissues.

A balanced and adequate diet is required to supply the nutrients and energy needed for the growing child. The requirement of all nutrients is increased, but the pattern of increase varies for different nutrients in relation to their role in growth of specific tissues.

A child of one year old can eat most of the dishes that are prepared for the rest of the family. They require less spicy food. The appetite normally decreases during this period. Fuzzy eating starts at this time so make sure the food is interesting and attractive. They need five to six meals a day because of their smaller appetites. Healthy foods such as whole wheat bread, cereals, fruits and vegetables should make up the major part of the diet of the children. Foods such as meat, fish, soya products, milk, pulses and cereals will provide the protein necessary for this age group.

Under 5 year old children should not use skimmed milk to restrict on fat and cholesterol as they need the extra calories, but grilled and baked foods are always preferable to fried and fatty ones. The growth rate of the child is slow in this group.

Protein has a very important role in the diet of the preschool child because there is considerable increase in muscular development during these years. The requirements for essential amino acids are higher for children than adults. So protein should be selected from complete protein foods such as milk, egg and meat.

The calorie requirements are also increased due to the high cellular activity. Whole grains or enriched cereals increase the calories. Concentrated sweets and foods that are very high in fat should be avoided.

Vitamins and minerals must be supplemented adequately. Calcium and iron requirements are relatively greater during early childhood. Deficiency of calcium can affect the bones of growing children. Foods rich in calcium such as milk and milk products, ragi, green leafy vegetable and fish should be included in the diet of children.

Aneamia, a common medical problem seen during this period is due to dietary lack of iron and / or by hookworm infestation. To meet this increased need for iron, iron rich foods, like rice flakes, green leafy vegetables, egg, liver should be included in the diet. Preferably food must be given after children enjoyed his or her favorite activities such as TV programs or games to avoid them rush to leave the table.

Recommended dietary allowances for children

Group Energy kcal/day Protein gm/day Fat gm/day Iron Mg/day Calcium Mg/day
1-3 years 1125 23 20 12 400
4-6 years 1600 31 20 18 400

Source: Indian council of medical research 1989


Image: Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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