Kofi Annan said, “Children are our future, and their mothers are its guardians…”.
A child’s family, especially the mother, plays a prominent role in shaping a child’s physical, mental and spiritual health. A child’s nutrition is dependent on the food types and habits that he or she acquires from childhood. Instilling wholesome food habits from the formative years of the child is crucial to form a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle.
A single food source cannot offer all the nutrients that a child requires. Nutrients vary largely between different food groups. It is quite feasible to meet the nutritional needs of a child, with a correct balance of healthy food sources.
Pediatricians all over the world, strongly recommend parents to follow the food pyramid as a guide to serve food from all the food groups. This makes sure that the child receives all types of essential nutrients that are necessary for the overall health, growth and development. The food guide also warns against certain foods and encourages children to eat more of nutrient-dense foods.
Grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy-products, and proteins are the five major food groups. Whole grains that are rich in carbohydrates provide energy to a growing child. Rice, bread and pastas belong to this group. Vegetables and fruits supply fiber, vitamins and minerals for the smooth functioning of the body. Milk and dairy products contain calcium and proteins, which maintain the health of the bones. Human body requires proteins to grow and develop the body-muscles. Eggs, nuts, meat and legumes belong to the protein food category. Other foods, such as fats and sweets are not preferable, and parents must restrict the intake of such foods.
Parents are the role models for a child. They should exercise extra care to influence them to eat and drink wholesome food/drinks. Setting a good example is a great necessity to make sure the family lives a healthy lifestyle. Since children closely observe and imitate parents’ behavior, it is quite easy to mould them into sound eaters. Children have fewer options of eating unhealthy food, if parents buy and offer only healthy food.
Careful planning can make mealtimes a fun-filled experience. Various textures, colors, shapes, odor, temperature, and taste encourage the children to develop a taste for healthy and nutritious food.
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