Nutrition is a very important component to a child’s health. From the time a child is born, their growth potential and development is greatly influenced by the type of nutrition they get.
Parents play a very crucial role in their child’s nutrition. Children still need the guidance of their parents in ensuring they eat well and learn the ability to make better food choices. These practical tips will help you, as parents, do just that:
Give your child balanced meals
A nutritionally balanced meal is one that contains foods from the Food Groups, which are:
Complex Carbohydrate Group such as rice, noodles, cereals, breads, tubers for fiber and long lasting energy
The Fruit and Vegetable Group which are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber
Protein Groups such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu and legumes for essential amino acids for cell development
Dairy Group such as milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified beverages for calcium, vitamins and minerals
With the food groups in mind, create meals that are more complete so your child gets the full benefits of the nutrients from the food group. Take a look at this example:
Example #1 – For an energy boosting breakfast:
1 plain roti canai with curry gravy (Complex Carbohydrate Group)
(The Better Choice)
1 bowl cooked oats with sliced fruit (Complex Carbohydrate & Fruit Group)
1 cup fortified chocolate beverage with added grains, such as oats (Dairy Group & Complex Carbohydrates)
Example # 2 – For a Power Packed Lunch or Dinner
1 bowl plain instant noodle (Complex Carbohydrate Group only)
(The Better Choice)
1 plate rice with
1 piece chicken &
Stir fried vegetable (Complex carbs, protein and vegetable group)
Sliced fresh apples (Fruit group)
1 cup fortified chocolate beverage with added grains, such as oats (Dairy group & Complex Carbohydrates)
Example # 3 – A sensible snack for a child:
2 slices bread with butter and jam (Complex Carbohydrate Group only)
(The Better Choice)
Egg sandwich with cucumber slices (Complex Carbohydrate, Protein, Vegetable Group)
Fortified chocolate beverages with added grains, such as oats (Dairy Group& Complex Carbohydrates)
Teach your Child to Eat in Moderation
There’s really no food that is altogether bad for your child. All foods contain nutrients that are beneficial to your child’s health. The key is to teach your child to enjoy foods in moderation. For example, a sensible serving of ice cream for a child is ½ cup or a scoop, not a large 3-scoop ice cream sundae. If you practice moderation, then your child will get used to eating sensible portions of all the variety of foods he loves, without feeling deprived.
Stock Up on Nutritionally Healthier Options
If you’re going to remove from your child’s diet less healthy options, then you’ll have to replace it with healthier choices which he’ll enjoy. This way, he won’t feel deprived, but you have opened up a variety of other options for him to try. So, take a good hard look into your fridge and pantry, and assess the items that can be replaced with nutritionally better choices.
Here are some tips on healthier options to stock up on for your child:
Tid bit snack foods, fried frozen foods, candy, sweets, preserved snacks
Better options for snacks:
Granola bars, yogurt, fresh fruit, raisins, cheese cubes, crackers, plain biscuits, pretzel sticks, plain buns, agar-agar jelly,
Better options to make meals for your child:
Choose fresh produce such as poultry, fish, meat, fresh or frozen vegetables, eggs, baked beans, canned tuna, sardines, pasta, and fresh noodles
Processed meats such as frozen hamburger meat, nuggets/drummets, sausages, instant noodles
Better options for beverages:
100% fruit juices (no sugar added), fortified drinks with added grains, such as oats, milk, robotic drinks
Cordials, flavoured soft drinks, carbonated drinks
Be a Nutritionally Smart Shopper
All packaged foods have nutritional labels on them. These labels are meant to let you know the breakdown of nutrients that are contained in a particular food or drink.
As a rule of thumb, what you should look for when choosing items for your child:
- Food or drinks that contain a substantial amount of protein, fiber, a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- You want to limit food and drinks that are high in sugar, sodium and fat, particularly saturated fat
Learn More about Nutrition
It pays to take an interest in nutrition to learn more about it. Look for out for books, websites, health magazines, newspaper articles, free community talks by experts and TV shows about nutrition. The more you know, the better you’ll be at guiding your child to make better food choices for his overall health and wellbeing.
Written by Indra Balaratnam (Consultant Dietitian)
We are grateful to have Indra Balaratnam as our guest writer. She is the founder of Indra Balaratnam Nutrition – The Food Expert Clinic and she has 18 years of experience in the field of foods, nutrition.
She runs her own private practice, where she conducts one-on-one dietary counseling and group workshops for clients who want to eat better for good health. Her area of dietetic interests are chronic illnesses such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, post surgery recovery, weight management, pregnancy, childhood nutrition and nutrition for fitness.
Indra’s keen interest in the profession also sees her invited as an expert speaker and trusted key opinion leader for professional conferences, corporate wellness programmes, workshops, television and radio talkshows. Indra is the co-author of the nutrition cookbook “Healthy Eating – Recipes for the Asian Palate” (Times Edition Marshall Cavendish 2004) and “Healthy Family Meals” (Marshall Cavendish Cuisine 2008) in which she collaborated with Chef Nicholas Pillai.