Understand the food pyramid to plan the right meals for your child
As a parent, while taking care of your child’s nutritional needs, it is very easy to overdo things or do less than what is required. This is why a structured approach is necessary, as far as providing balanced and healthy meals, is concerned. And this is where the food pyramid for kids can help. It is a graphical representation, i.e., a triangular shape that depicts different food groups and the optimum amounts of each food group that should be consumed every day.
In other words, a food pyramid chart gives you detailed knowledge about the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre, required by your child on a daily basis. A healthy diet plan can be easily devised based on this.
The food pyramid is divided into "four levels", with each level representing a food group. And they are:
- Cereals, pulses, and millets
- Vegetables and fruits
- Milk and milk products, egg, meat, and fish
- Oils and fats, and nuts and seeds
For a child to grow and develop properly, the proper amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre are necessary. The quantities of each of these differ, based on your kid’s age and gender. The food pyramid can provide guidance to parents and teachers and help them understand these requirements. For instance, it might help you to know that a well-balanced meal should include no less than 3 to 5 food groups.
How are the food groups arranged?
Now that you have understood the importance of the food pyramid, here is a look at how the food groups are arranged. As it is a pyramid, the top-most level is narrow, which indicates that this food group needs to be consumed in less quantity.
The lower-most level is big and wide, which indicates that this food group needs to be consumed in large quantities.
The arrangement of the food pyramid (top to bottom)
- Top layer i.e. narrow: Fats and oils and sugar
- Second layer: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts
- Third layer: Milk and milk products
- Fourth layer: Vegetable and fruits
- Fifth layer i.e. big and wide: Whole-grain cereals
How to read the food groups?
- At the base of the pyramid, the food group is whole-grain cereals. This food group needs to be consumed in adequate amounts to get healthy carbohydrates and energy.
- Fruits and vegetables are depicted by the fourth layer, also wide, as they should be consumed in ample amounts, to get vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Animal sources and milk-products are depicted by the second and third layers, and they need to be consumed in moderate quantities. Your child will get protein from these, along with essential minerals like calcium.
- At the top of the pyramid are highly processed foods i.e. fats and sugars, which should be consumed in low quantities. These can harm the health of your child when consumed in excess and can affect their immunity and overall growth and development.
Apart from the food pyramid, it is also important for your child to follow a regular exercise regime and be active physically. Make sure he or she drinks plenty of water for hydration.
Planning a diet as per the food pyramid:
- Make sure your child’s diet includes sugar, salt, and fat in very low quantities. Avoiding junk foods is a good way to achieve that.
- To provide good proteins, provide oily fish at least once or twice per week, along with eggs, chicken, milk and milk products, beans, nuts, and more.
- Toddlers should consume full-fat milk and dairy products.
- Give them at least 3-4 portions of cereals, potatoes and other carbohydrates. Include at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables (more of vegetables).
- Toddlers should drink at least 6 cups of water every day.
- Avoid giving fruits juices when they are thirsty, as a replacement of water. These are loaded with natural sugar and have very little fibre.
To make sure your child leads a healthy life, it is important to be aware of what food is healthy, how much he or she should consume and how many calories should be burnt daily. And the food pyramid can help you with this. So, even if you start slow, over time, make sure that your kid consumes foods from all the major food groups.