Children Health and Diet Essay

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Among the simplest ways to demonstrate our care for children is feeding them safe and healthy food (Benjamin, 2012). This is crucial for the following reasons (Benjamin, 2012):

Through food, children acquire the nutrients and energy required by them to grow, think and be active.

Food keeps children healthy. Infections can be fought and scrapes and cuts healed quickly through good nutrition.

Safely prepared Foods help prevent food-borne sicknesses in children.

The food eaten in childhood helps in development of lifetime habits in children.

They are more comfortable, more secure and less grumpy if their hunger is satisfied.

Through learning to feed himself/herself, a child develops self-esteem.

While eating with others, children develop communication and social skills.


Food is essential for children's growth. Fast-growing kids require greater quantities of food, from the following food categories: milk, grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, beans and meat (Benjamin, 2012). The above six kinds of foods help in growth and sustain good health. No single variety of foods can deliver all necessary nutrition to young children. Different food varieties need to be included in their diet; children's food intake should consist of various essential minerals and vitamins (Benjamin, 2012).

Cereals and bread contain carbohydrates and vitamin B, and provide children with energy and fiber.

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals, folic acid, and fiber.

Dried beans and peas, eggs, meat, fish and nuts are a source of protein, fiber, zinc and iron.

Dairy products are a rich source of calcium and protein.

The most important part of children's everyday diet is water.


Giving babies and toddlers different kinds of food ensures that they receive all essential nutrients. Apart from a nutritious diet, children acquire new skills through eating wholesome meals (Benjamin, 2012). Dexterity and good motor skills are developed through childhood, and even infancy, eating experiences. Through foods, children can be taught basic skills like sorting, counting, measuring, odors, tastes, colors, temperatures, textures and shapes (Benjamin, 2012).

2. Infants:

The infancy stage characterizes the life's quickest physical development and growth and development of a person's life. A phenomenal amount of energy is needed to support growth in this stage. The infancy stage is subdivided into several sub-stages, each characterized by differences in physical growth, nutritional requirements, feeding patterns and developmental achievements (BFP, 2002.).

Early infancy (the period from birth to an age of 6 months) shows quickest growth and change in a child. The middle infancy stage (6- 9 months) as well as late infancy (9- 12 months) shows comparatively slower, but still quite rapid, growth. In the latter stage, babies' physical maturation, newborn- reflex loss, and mastery over purposeful activities allows them to consume a greater selection of foods (Trahms & Pipes, 1997). Successful development and vitality of infants hinges on adequate nutrition during their life's first year (BFP, 2002).

2.1. Younger Infants (0-5 months):

For babies, the best nutrition source is human milk (AAP, 2005). It gets digested more readily than formula; further, breast-fed infants tend to eat more often when compared with those who are bottle-fed. Being in support of breastfeeding ensures infants' good health. Until the age of 4 to 6 months, all infants require is iron-fortified baby formula or human milk (Benjamin, 2012).

2.2 Older Infants (6 months):

Normally, between the ages of 4 and 6 months, infants are introduced to solid food, depending upon their readiness to consume solid meals (Benjamin, 2012). Most parents worry about what they should feed their babies- baby formula or breast milk. Parents want to ensure that their babies receive ample nutrients essential to them; however, they are not sure what would be best for their little one- bottle feeding or breastfeeding. Health experts can assist families in deciding when supplemental foods can be introduced into their baby's diet through imparting knowledge to them on the nutritional requirements and developmental capabilities of infants. Babies are developmentally prepared to consume supplemental foods at around 4- 6 months; this is the age when infants' sucking reflexes change, enabling them to coordinate swallowing, as well. At this age, babies can use a support and sit, and have good neck and head control (BFP, 2002). In case of introduction of solids at 4 to 6 months, babies must only be given a cereal-formula mix or human milk-cereal mix (if the baby still breastfeeds) (Benjamin, 2012)

Figure-1: CACFP INFANT MEAL PATTERN (Benjamin, 2012)

1 Dry baby cereal and formula has to be iron- fortified.

2 They may be given baby formula or breast milk, or both; but, it is highly recommended to give babies breast milk rather than formula during the ages of 0-11 months.

In case of those breastfed babies whose normal consumption is less when compared to the minimum breast milk they must consume per feeding, they may be served less than a minimum quantity, with extra breast milk provided if the baby's hunger has still not abated.

4 This component should be served when the baby is developmentally prepared to consume it.

3. Toddlers (1-2 years):

Toddlers have a tendency of being wary of any new food; they may refuse tasting anything new. They have to see the new food, smell, feel, touch, and taste it, as much as 15-20 times, after which they may finally accept it (Kleinman, 1998; Satter, 1990).

Children at this stage also prove to be unpredictable. They may like some foods one day, but may show different preferences the next. If they eat a large quantity one day, the next day may show them consuming very little. Unlike adults, toddlers normally eat just 1-2 foods during a meal (BFP, 2002).

For persuading toddlers to develop healthy eating habits, parents must provide them with a structured, yet pleasant, mealtime setting; parents should, by their example, make children eat different kinds of food (BFP, 2002). It is the responsibility of parents to influence what, where and when their toddlers eat, while toddlers ascertain whether, and how much, they must eat (Satter, 1990).

4. Children

The most crucial nutrition message to parents of children in the early childhood stage is ensuring that children consume sufficient nutrients and calories for supporting adequate development and growth (BFP, 2002.). Before reaching the age of 2 years, children's fat intake must not be constrained. However, after the age of 2 years, their high-fat consumption must gradually be let down; by the time they reach 5 years, children's diet should consist of less than 30% fat (i.e. 33 grams fat per 1,000 kilocalories) (Kleinman, 1998).

With lesser fat consumption, children should begin eating more quantities of vegetables, fruits, grain products, dairy products with low fat, calcium-rich and protein-rich products, lean meat, fish, poultry and beans. Deficiency of iron (anemia) may hinder children's physical and mental development (BFP, 2002).

4.1. Preschoolers (3-5 years):

At about an age of 3- 4 years, children show greater curiosity towards food, though they may still hesitate to try out new foods. Parents can overcome their reluctance by talking about different foods and also, perhaps, letting children prepare or grow foods. Children grow up to become less precipitate and begin following instructions. They join in mealtime conversations, are able to control hunger, can pass food, and serve themselves. They become more comfortable with eating in an unfamiliar place compared to toddlers. Parents must encourage them to sample new foods, as the main aim is children's acceptance of various nutritious foods, rather than merely getting them to dine on what they already do.

4.2. Middle Childhood (6-12 years):

This age depicts a slow, but steady physical growth rate; but children's social, cognitive, and emotional development progresses rapidly. For achieving optimal overall growth, children have to eat different varieties of healthful foods that provide adequate energy, carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals and vitamins. Apart from the regular three meals in a day, they also require snacks in between (BFP, 2002).

Figure-2: CACFP Child Meal Pattern (Benjamin, 2012)

1 Children aged 12 or above can be served a bigger portion depending on their food requirements.

They should not be given lesser than the listed minimum quantities.

2 Vegetable or fruit juice should be full-strength.

3 Whole-grain or flour or enriched meal should be used to make grains and breads. Cereal should also be enriched, fortified or whole-grain.

4 A serving implies the eatable share of cooked fish, poultry or lean meat.

Seeds and nuts may meet just half the overall meat/meat substitute serving; they should be served in combination with some other meat/meat substitute for fulfilling supper or lunch requirement.

6 Yogurt can be sweetened or unsweetened, flavored or plain.


Breastfeeding, S.O. (2012). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics, peds.2011 -- 3552.

Benjamin, SE, ed. (2012). Making Food Healthy and Safe for Children: How to Meet the Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs. Second Edition. Chapel Hill, NC: The National Training Institute for Child Care Health Consultants, Department… [END OF PREVIEW]

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