Power-Nutrition for School Going Children

Nitu Pal as a nutritionist stresses upon a balanced diet for children in school going age because these years form the foundation for their body and mind to prepare for life ahead. If you have been wondering how to take care of your child’s health through food – this article has all the answers!

Nutrition refers to how bodies use food. Good nutrition, growth, health, and learning go together. Good nutrition is especially important for young children because they grow so quickly. Nutritious food fosters proper development and enhances learning. The child who eats poorly loses interest quickly, lacks energy, is sick more often, and is irritable. Your child needs to eat a balanced diet.

Maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise is important for all individuals, especially school-aged children (6-12 years). These children are required to eat a variety of foods from each food group to ensure optimal intake of all vitamins and minerals. At the same time, they may face new challenges regarding food choices and habits. Decisions about what to eat are partly determined by what is provided in school, at home, the influences from friends at school, and the media, especially television.

Poor nutrition compromises both the quality of life of school going children but also their potential to benefit from education. Attaining optimal nutrition involves eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, as well as limiting the intake of high sugar and high fat foods. Consuming generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy products, including three servings of milk, cheese or yoghurt to meet their calcium requirement, can also prevent many medical problems. This includes becoming overweight, developing weak bones, and developing diabetes.

Tips to ensure proper nutrition

      1. Eating breakfast is must for a healthy day as it improves the IQ of the child.child should eat the breakfast before going to school( Veg paneer roll/cornflakes / oats with fruits) and

        must carry the tiffin to be eaten in the school lunch time (like a stuffed

        paratha, poha, idli+chutney).

      2. Small quantity frequent meals must be reinforced. Ensure that your child’s daily meals contain   three main meals and two healthy snacks.
      3. Device a menu that limits the use of dishes that have high sugar and fat content. Give a variety in your child's menu as it will provide all nutrients needed for good health
      4. Ensure that you include a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products.Kids need to eat more protein and calcium.
      5. Try to include a variety of foods in your weekly menu rather than sticking to one food group.
      6. Drink plenty of fluids at least 8 glasses in a day.
      7. Select foods low in sugar and fat when planning meals for children.
      8. For instance, the milk in the evening can be substituted with cheese or flavored yogurt. This will ensure that the kids do not get fed up of eating the same thing every day.
      9. Limit the amount of junk food and sugary juices.
      10. Select foods low in sugar and fat when planning meals for children.
      11. Balance nutritious meal plans with physical activity to ensure that your child gets the maximum benefit from the food that he is consuming.
      12. Remember that your child has a mind of his own and can be quite stubborn. Force-feeding your child may not be a good option as he may develop an aversion for food.
      13. Set an example for your child by being a good role model yourself. It is not fair to expect your child to eat up his green while you tuck into fries and burger in front of the TV. Kids should be discouraged eating while watching TV.

        As far as possible, ensure that your family has at least one meal together. Sitting at a table and watching the rest of the family eat the same food may encourage your child to do the same.

      14. Make mealtimes interesting. Keep portion sizes small, so that he is not intimidated by it. Make interesting shapes with cookie cutters and present food in a fun way.
      15. Ensure consistency in meal times and discourage binging on junk food in between. Be familiar with your child’s hunger patterns. So, if his hunger peaks half hour before your actual dinner time, advance dinner time by half an hour instead of letting him snack in between.
      16. Involve your child in the cooking process. Teach him to appreciate food and the effort that goes into preparing meals. This will make him more receptive to the food you place in front of him.
      17. Ask them to avoid junk, high calorie foods like kachori, puri, chaat, samosa, bread pakora, fried foods, parathas, burgers, pizza, cold drinks etc.

Food Groups

GRAINS: Grains are an essential part of a healthy diet that offer nutrients and energy for a child’s normal growth and development. You must include a wide variety of whole grains and/or high fiber varieties of cereals, rice, wheat pasta, wheat noodles and oats. You should exclude grains like refined grain (cereal) food products with high level of added sugar, fat (particularly saturated fats) and/or salt/sodium , like cakes and biscuits.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: They are rich in colored pigments, water, vitamins and minerals and are also good sources of fiber. A child should consume 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day.

FATS AND OIL: They are an essential part of your kid or teen’s diet as they play an important role in development of your kid’s brain, helping them in reaching their maximum growth potential. Fat is used in our body as fuel and helps the body absorb the fat soluble vitamin A, D, E and K. Fatty foods are often associated with overweight, obesity, heart disease and stroke but eating the right fats can provide the body with health benefits. Get your oils from fish, nuts, avocados and liquid oil such as corn oil, soybean oil, olive oil and canola oil.

MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS: They are an excellent source of Vitamin A, D, B1, B2 and B12 and minerals particularly calcium. This is especially important for children and adolescents. A good bone balance can be achieved during childhood and teenage years if borrowing from the bones is minimized and daily calcium needs are met.

MEAT AND BEANS: Meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds supply many nutrients and are important part of healthy eating. These foods are rich source of proteins. Proteins are needed for a variety of functions in your body, therefore, it is important to include it in your diet. Meat is also a good source of Vitamin B12 and Iron. A diet rich in iron will help to prevent Iron deficiency anemia. This is common condition found in children and can result in having less energy and looking pale. The vegetarian alternatives to meat are soya, beans, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, mushrooms, nuts and seeds.

Sample Meal Plan

Here is a sample meal plan for growing children between the age of 5 – 12 years.

Waking up

A glass of lukewarm water

:5-6 soaked almonds

Breakfast

Vegetable egg omelet with onion, tomato, spinach, whole grain bread slices

+ one fruit (seasonal)

Mid Morning

Fruit salad with strawberry flavored low-fat yoghurt

Lunch

Lean chicken- capsicum-onion -zucchini stir fry - whole grain roll + seasonal fruit shake

Evening

Spinach- mushroom-peas cutlet, fresh mixed fruit juice (Apple Guava, lime)

Dinner

Whole multigrain phulkas, dal, paneer-peas-mushroom mixed vegetable curry.

Bed time

A glass of warm low fat milk.

About The Author

Nitu Pal

Nitu Pal is a nutritionist. She runs her own clinic in Bhopal. She is an expert in kids’ nutrition, cardiac issues pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid, PCOS and liver issues. She.... Read More..

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