Healthy Food for your Child
It is a common adage that we are what we eat; this is also true medically for the developing child. For optimum growth and development of your child, appropriate/balanced diet is essential. Inappropriate diet can lead to protein and energy malnutrition (kwashiorkor and marasmus), stunted growth, mineral deficiencies (rickets), poor brain development and childhood obesity.
Appropriate diet for Neonates and Infants (0-1year)
Exclusive breast feeding for six months is the best diet during neonatal and infant period. Breastfeeding should continue up to one year mixed with complimentary feeds like mashed boiled fish, mashed beans, and prepared soya beans paste, cereals like golden morn, custard, oats, milk shakes, yogurts, soya milk, and honey.
Foods to avoid in neonates are nuts to avoid chokingand pepper.
Appropriate Diet for Toddlers (1-3years)
Starchy food like bread, meat, fish, egg,cereal, rice, pasta, or potatoes, fruits and vegetables, milk rich in calcium, cheese and yogurts should be part of their diet. Others should be cakes, biscuits and food high in sugar should be given occasionally.
Food to avoid in toddlers include: excessive salt, nuts, artificial flavourings, colourings, preservatives and sweeteners, and improperly cooked food to avoid food poisoning.
Appropriate Diet for Pre-school Age (3-5years)
Pre-school age period can include all food given in toddler period. But spicy food can be introduced gradually. Vegetables like okra, spinach, egusi, vegetable soup can also be started. They can also take mashed ‘swallow’.
It is important to avoid overfeeding to prevent childhood obesity. They should also avoid eating nuts, gum, tough meat, raw or partially cooked food, unpasteurized milk, unwashed fruits and vegetables.
Appropriate diet for school age (6-12years)
School age children need healthy food and nutritious snacks. They have a consistent but reduced rate of growth. School age children can take all food diet listed in the pre-school age with addition of nuts, more cereals, fruits, milk, vegetables and protein. Eating habits are developed here, it is important that good examples are set for them.
Avoid diets that have excess sugar and cholesterol to prevent childhood obesity.
How to Monitor the Growth of your Child
Monitoring your child’s weight on a growth chart is essential while growing up. This is to avoid malnourished or obsessed state. Refer to the WHO chart at https://www.who.int/childgrowth/standards/weight_for_age/en/ for more information on growth monitoring of your child.