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Diet in Childhood

The rapid growth which occurs in foetal life  and during infancy is followed by a long period of gradual growth during childhood. This is the time when the child starts exploring his environment and gets exposed to the school situation. The number of influences on his mind are, therefore, increased and his world of interaction widened. This affects his food behaviour and eating patterns, some of which may be considered problem issues. With careful understanding, these problems may only be transient and can be overcome easily. However due to poor eating habits, children particularly preschoolers, are more easily prone to deficiencies like protein energy malnutrition, anaemia and vitamin A deficiency. 

Although by school age, children have established a particularl pattern of meal intake, they continue to be affected by the influences of their peers and the mass media. At the same time they are burdened by the heavy schoolwork, class competition and proneness to communicable diseases. The influences of childhood get further pronounced during adolescence. A proper well balanced diet, good eating habits, a good school lunch program combined with some amount of nutrition awareness goes a long way in improving their nutritional status.

Recommended Energy Allowances for Children 

Group Age (years) Energy (kcal/day)
Children 1 to 3 1240
  4 to 6 1690
  7to 9 1950
Boys  10 to 12 2190
Girls 10 to 12 1970

Recommended Allowances of Proteins for Children 

Group Age (years) Energy (g/d)
Children 1 to 3 22
  4 to 6 30
  7to 9 41
Boys  10 to 12 54
Girls 10 to 12 57

Diet and Feeding Pattern

The preschool years are ones that create a number of concerns about food intake. The disinterest in certain foods may last from a few months to a few years. Food preferences may change from time to time, that may range from day to day or week to week. All the same, certain foods are accepted only when cooked or served in a particular way. Appetite is erratic, with the result the child may often eat one meal well but refuses the next.

In spite of this preschoolers enjoy well prepared and attractively served food. They prefer simple unmixed dishes which are neither too hot nor too cold. Familiar foods are better liked and, hence, small portions of new foods should be introduced only with already well accepted foods. A balance should be maintained between hard and soft foods, and strong and mildly flavoured foods in the meals. Colourful foods add variety and stimulate interest.

Foods should be such that can be easily manipulated and handled as   preschoolers are generally clumsy. Handy finger foods like cutlets, hard boiled eggs, small sandwiches, rolls and whole fruits are easy to pick and eat, especially at school. Even at the table small pieces of food that can be easily handled with the spoon or fork should be served. Physical comfort in sitting, deep unbreakable bowls, and cutlery with blunt edges helps the child in his efforts in self feeding. 

Vegetables are generally disliked and consumption of sweets may be excessive. These however should not be treated as issues by parents and handled with care. Too much of attention at meal times only makes the child resort to unfair means of achieving their ends.

A Days Sample Diet Plan for a Five Year old Child

Namrita is a five year old daughter of a government Officer. She attends Nursery school from 0900 hrs to 1200 hrs. She takes a packed mid morning tiffin to school which she likes to eat while playing around. Her entire family is vegetarian in their food habits. A day's diet for her is planned below:

Personal Data

Age 5 years
Sex  Female
Socio-economic Status MIG
Food Habits Vegetarian

Recommended Dietary Allowances
Energy 1690 kcals
Protein 30 g
Vitamin A 400 g retinol
Iron 18 mg

Sample Menu Plan:

Meal  Menu
Early Morning Milk
Breakfast Cheese Toast
Mid-Morning (packed tiffin) Rava idli
Lunch Channa Curry
  Boiled Rice
  Carrot & Cucumber salad
  Mint Raita
Evening Tea Banana Shake
  Bread Roll with Sprouts filling
Dinner Potato Paneer Curry
  Dry Tindas
  Cabbage Kheer

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