Children are very special people. They grow at amazing rates and are especially vulnerable to any lack or deficiency – be it nutritional, emotional or otherwise. It is very important to give foods and snacks that supply the nutrients children need to be healthy and grow well.
Not only will it help them be well nourished and reach their full physical and educational potential, giving children healthy food will also establish the habit of healthy eating that will stay with them for a lifetime.
So today, I share some nutrition tips below for young children, specifically pre-school kids (ages 2-5).
• Fruits – Ensure your kid eats lots of fruits every day, the recommendation is five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday – banana, oranges, watermelon, avocado pear, mango. To make it easy you can try and include a fruit in season with each meal.
• Vegetables – this is important as well. Let the plate be colourful. Veggies like spinach (Ugwu in Nigeria), carrots, tomatoes, okra soup, cucumber, salads. Together with fruits this should be served up to five times a day. So, ensure child gets a vegetable based food for lunch and dinner. Ensure child gets a fruit served with breakfast and as a snack. Just mix it up so you’ve given fruits and vegetable together 5 times in a day.
• Grains – a healthy diet should also include grains. Grains include food like rice, corn-meal, wheat, spaghetti (pasta), bread, oats. There are however 2 types of grains – the refined grains and whole grains. Whole grains are richer nutritionally and include brown bread, brown rice, our local unprocessed rice. Refined grains have been processed removing a lot of nutrients – like our white rice and white bread. So, try and make sure that half of the grains your kids eat are whole grains.
• Proteins – give them proteins like beans, eggs, meat, fish, turkey and chicken.
• Milk – pre-schoolers should drink milk and other dairy like yoghurt daily. You can replace Ribena, caprisonne, coke and fanta with milk, yoghurt drinks daily. Milk contains calcium need for growth of their bones, which grows rapidly during this stage.
• Limit sugary drinks and replace with water. Sugary drinks like Ribena and coke, add calories that may lead to being overweight.
• Limit salt and salty food and snacks and solid fats. Also limit canned food and frozen food as they are usually packed with lots of salt.
• Offer different food everyday and encourage you child to eat from a wide variety of foods.
• Serve food in small portions but let them be frequent and nutrient packed at scheduled times of the day.
These are some healthy eating tips to ensure your pre-schooler is well nourished and grow strong and healthy. Do you have any challenges in giving your child nutritious food? Any questions, comments and contributions? Please feel free to contact me if you need nutritional counselling for yourself or kids.
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Till my next post, do stay well and healthy-pink
Dr. Anire Oduko.