Childhood and adolescence are periods of rapid growth and development. During this period, children require adequate amounts of all nutrients (namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals) for proper growth and development, repair of tissues, metabolic functions like circulation, digestion, immunity and cognition. Carbohydrates and fats are required for energy; proteins help build muscles; and vitamins and minerals are essential for various metabolic, developmental and immune functions. In order to make sure that a child gets enough of each nutrient, he needs to consume a balanced diet.
So, what exactly is a balanced diet?
Food that we eat are divided into 5 major food groups:
- Cereals and millets
- Pulses, eggs, meat & fish
- Vegetables and fruits
- Milk, milk products, meat and fish
- Oils, fats, nuts and seeds
A balanced diet is the diet that contains right proportions of foods from all the 5 food groups so that your child gets all the essential nutrients in the required amounts essential for his appropriate growth and development.
To make sure that your child is consuming a balanced diet:
- Include 2-3 servings of cereals or millets such as wheat, rice, jowar, bajri, etc. in each meal.
- Include at least 1 serving of proteins in form of pulses, soybean, egg, meat or fish in all the 3 major meals of the day.
- Include at least 2 servings of milk and milk products per day as they are essential for growth and development.
- Make sure your child consumes a minimum of 2 servings of vegetables and 1 fruit every day. No one fruit or vegetable can provide your child with all vitamins and minerals. So make sure you include a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal fruits.
- Exercise is an essential component of good health and balanced diet. So encourage your child to engage in play for ½ - 1 hour daily
Further to make it easy, to ensure that your child is getting balanced diet, the National Institute of Nutrition, India has provided mothers with a guideline (Table) regarding the number of portion of each food that needs to be included in the balanced diet of the child.
Number of portions of different foods for children of different age
|Food Group||gms/ portion||Infants 6-12 months||1-3 years||4-6 months||7-9 years||10 - 12 years||13 - 15 years||16 - 18 years|
|Cereals & millets||30||0.5||2||4||6||8||10||11||14||11||15|
|Milk & Milk products||100||4*||5||5||5||5||5||5||5||5||5|
|Roots & tubers||100||0.5||0.5||1||1||1||1||1||1.5||2||2|
|Green leafy vegetables||100||0.25||0.5||0.5||1||1||1||1||1||1||1|
A portion of pulse can be replaced by 50g of egg/meat/fish
Egg/ chicken/ fish/ meat can be introduced in the diet of children around the age of 10 -11 months
How to interpret this table?
As per this table, if your child is 7-9 year old, he should consume 6 servings of 30 g of raw cereals and millets which would correspond to 6 chappati/ bhakri or 3 cups of rice/ day. He should also consume 2 servings of 30 g of raw pulses which converts to 2 bowls of cooked pulses or medium size bowl of egg/meat/fish and 500 ml of milk & milk products daily. In addition, he should also consume 100 g or 1 medium size bowl of roots and tubers, green leafy vegetables, other red-orange-yellow vegetable and 1 fruit daily.
In addition, his diet can also contain 2-3 tsp of sugar and oil per day.
We hope these simple guidelines shall help you plan a balanced diet for your child. If you have any queries regarding a balanced diet, please feel free to write to us.
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