Nutrition plays an important role in ensuring wellbeing, during all stages of life, especially during childhood, as this is the period of maximum growth and development. However, when it comes to a child’s nutrition, parents need to remember that children themselves are not too concerned about whether the food is nutritious or not. For children, it is all about presentation, taste, texture and smell. Thus, it is essential to ensure that healthy meals are served to children in the form of good-looking dishes to balance both aspects.
Balanced diet for children
A balanced diet is one that comprises a variety of foods from different food groups, and is consumed in adequate amounts, to provide the body with all necessary nutrients. Here are a few reasons why a balanced diet is important for a child:
- Children can gain sufficient energy to perform various activities throughout the day, from a balanced diet.
- For the growth and development of various tissues, organs, and body parts, a balanced diet is required.
- Balanced meals can ensure quick repair and healing of the body’s cells.
- To boost immunity and fight infections, following a balanced diet is mandatory.
- A balanced diet can ensure normal brain functioning and help kids to learn fast and retain everything.
- To ensure that your child’s bones and teeth are strong, you need to provide balanced meals.
- A balanced diet can maintain emotional stability and make kids bright and attentive.
- Meals that are balanced can ensure that your child is neither obese nor malnourished.
- To prevent the development of lifestyle-related diseases/disorders like diabetes, heart problems, and high blood pressure, a balanced diet is essential.
Ways to encourage healthy eating habits in children
- Child’s involvement: Take your child for grocery shopping, and let them pick the fruits and veggies. Encourage them to be your little helpers in the kitchen as it will then encourage them to eat the meals they have contributed to preparing.
- Include many colours and textures: If the food appeals to the child visually, it’s more than likely to be consumed. A child may refuse chopped carrots, but if you offer it to him in the shape of a star or flower, he may just say that it’s his most favourite food! This may take you extra time and effort, but the result will be worth it.
- Do not offer food as rewards: Let kids learn that food is what they eat for their own benefit, and isn’t something they receive because they’ve done a good deed or have been obedient.
- Help them visualize: Children are not going to understand big words or complicated health concepts, so help them understand the benefits of what they are consuming in simple ways. Instead of telling them they have to drink milk to get sufficient calcium, try saying that it will help them build strong bones and teeth.
- Include variety: Children are more likely to consume food they earlier said no to if it’s masked with their favourite dish. For example, if your child likes paratha but does not like peas, mash the peas and include it in the dough, so he won’t even know that he’s eating them.
- Be a role model: Your child will follow everything you do and if you consume a healthy balanced diet, sooner or later, he’s going to follow your footsteps.
Meal tips to provide a balanced diet for kids:
The following are some creative ways to ensure your child’s favourite food is packed with nutrition and is tasty too!
- Tricolour paratha: Children love colours, and instead of serving them regular parathas, it’s wise to include variations. To make a tricolor paratha, divide the dough into three equal portions. Add grated carrot to one quarter, chopped spinach and mashed peas to another, and to the last portion, add boiled and mashed beetroot. Separately roll out these three differently coloured flour dough portions and after positioning them beside each other, braid them together. When you eventually take a section of the braided dough and roll out the parathas, they are going to come out extremely colourful, making them a tasty and healthy dish that can be served with curd.
- Pizza or breadizza: You can use pizza base (do reach out for multigrain and whole-grain versions) or in case you want a quick fix and can’t find it, you could use a slice of bread too (again, millet/wholegrain/multigrain options are a great choice). On the pizza or bread, add a number of colourful chopped veggies like tomatoes, capsicum, boiled corn, and grated carrot, top with cheese (rather than cheese slices, go for fresh, natural versions), and bake. With the goodness of veggies hidden under melting cheese, kids will never refuse this delicious snack!
- Veg cutlets: An assortment of veggies like beetroot, peas, potatoes, beans, and carrots can be pressure cooked in a little water, mashed, and flattened into cutlets. Then coat them with egg (optional) and bread crumbs, and fry, to make yummy evening bites that are loaded with nutrition.
- Fruit or dry fruit milkshake: Children usually fuss about drinking milk, but when it comes to consuming canned juices, they love it! Keeping this in mind, flavouring the milk with fruits is a very easy and healthy solution. Chop apples and blend them with milk in a blender until smooth. Add half a tsp. of powdered dry fruit to make a wholesome milkshake. You can also add powdered dry fruits or churn soaked dry fruits with milk for another delicious drink.
When it comes to a balanced diet for kids, participation and creativity are key factors. Include the children in their journey towards good nutrition and they will grow up to become healthy adults who make wise food choices!
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