Between 2-5 years of age, your child’s nutritional needs grow rapidly. They need to consume well-balanced nutritious meals every day to ensure that their bones and muscles are growing properly. Nutrients help build their immunity thereby protecting them from various diseases in future. Without proper nourishment, your child will not be able to develop their mental, physical and social health.
Important Points To Note About Your Child’s Nutrition
- Children have small tummies and will hence eat small portions.
- This also means that they will get hungry soon.
- They should eat 3 balanced meals along with 2-3 snacks every day.
- Their snacks should be healthy too.
- They need to eat nutrient-dense foods at mealtimes.
- Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are required only in small amounts.
> These can be found in most fruits and vegetables.
> The problem is that children in this age group are usually picky about their food.
- Macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbs) are required in large amounts.
> They can be found in most foods.
> Children develop protein energy malnutrition in macronutrient deficiency.
Nutrients Present in Different Food Groups
Nutritional deficiency is a common problem seen with growing children. One way to ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrients is by keeping track of what they eat everyday. Their meals should be a balance of all the food groups - dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, fats, sugars and proteins.
Milk is the best source of calcium for your child. It is also fortified with protein, riboflavin and many other nutrients. Children older than 2 years of age can have low-fat milk along with yoghurt and cheese. They should have between 1.5-2 servings of dairy every day.
Different grains provide different nutrients. So try and include a mixed variety of grains in your child’s diet. Your child should consume 3-5 servings of grains in a day.
Fruits and Veggies:
You should include a variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in their meals. They contain all kinds of nutrients - fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Ensure that your child consumes 2-3 servings of proteins everyday. It can be consumed in the form of meat, fish, pulses and lentils.
Fats and sugars:
Your child also needs to consume fats and sugar as they provide the body with energy in the form of calories. They can be found in margarine, butter, cooking oil, meat, sweets, salad dressings, cookies, etc. Just make sure they don’t have too much of it as they tend to be very filling and have low nutritional value.
Symptoms of a Nutritional Deficiency
Children often develop deficiencies in nutrients like Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Calcium.
Haemoglobin is a compound present in RBCs that helps transport oxygen to all the cells in the body. Although there are other reasons for low haemoglobin, iron deficiency can result in a lack of haemoglobin in the blood. This means that the supply of oxygen throughout their body would be limited. The tell-tale sign of iron deficiency is that your little one may look pale. They may also get tired easily if they don’t consume enough iron in their diet.
Vitamin A deficiency
Being deficient in Vitamin A can lead to night blindness which is the inability to see in dim light, where others can see. Other common signs and symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency are dry skin, dry eyes, blockage of sweat glands, sparse and brittle hair, and frequent infections.
Vitamin D deficiency
If your child doesn’t consume adequate amounts of Vitamin D, their body will not be able to absorb calcium from dairy. This can lead to wide wrists and misshapen bones. Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. So getting your child to play outside should help meet their daily Vitamin D requirement. Vitamin D deficiency can only be detected after a medical diagnosis.
A lack of calcium can affect the growth of your child’s bones and muscles. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include muscle cramps, bony deformities and a short stature.
It is therefore important to keep these nutrients in mind while choosing the foods to feed your toddler. Make sure that you give them a variety of nutrient-dense foods for optimal nutrition.