Here’s an overview of nutrition in the Under 5′s, over the next few weeks I shall be delving in and looking at nutrients in more details including Iron and Vitamin D, so follow my blog or keep and eye on twitter and facebook for more!
Children are not mini adults. Not only do they need good nutrition to stay healthy and well but unlike adults, they are growing and developing too so have different requirements.
By 12 months children should be joining in family meals, this doesn’t mean cooking two meals but some modifications like cutting out salt in cooking. Meals should be based on the Eat Well Plate with 1/3 of the plate being starchy foods, 1/3 veggies, some protein foods and some dairy.
Variety – no one food contains all the nutrients children need so therefore they need to eat range of different foods. Try to plan ahead for the week so a variety of starchy foods and protein foods plus fruit and veggies are eaten. This is good for the whole family.
Portions – The amount of food a child needs varies with age, body size and physical activity. Appetite can vary from day to day, let them guide you. Generally if your child is growing and developing normally and happy then they are ok! A healthy meal pattern is small regular meals with one or two healthy snacks and drinks in between.
Protein – needed for growth, repair and renewal. Found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Babies and children have higher requirements as they are busy creating lots of new cells as they grow. Protein is made up of amino acids and not every food contains all amino acids so eating a variety is key to getting them all.
Carbohydrates - provides energy and fibre. Found in cereals, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, fruit, vegetables, lactose in milk. Base meals on these foods. Children have small stomachs so do not give too much fibre, gradually build this up as they grow to keep their digestive system healthy and help prevent constipation. There is a balance between fibre and fluid that keeps the digestive system happy. So if constipation is an issue reduce fibre slightly and check how much your child is drinking.
Fat- needed for energy for children as they grow, also for storing vitamins A,D,E and K and for providing essential fatty acids. It’s important to choose unsaturated fats (good fats) found in vegetable oils like olive, rapeseed, sunflower, seeds, nuts and oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel). Saturated fat and trans fats (bad fats) are found in cakes, pies, pastries, biscuits, fatty meat and meat products, butter, cream, whole milk, coconut and palm oil. Limit these bad fats and swap for ‘good’ fats. Eat oily fish once a week.
Salt- Babies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diet. Salt is ‘hidden’ in many ready-made foods, such as bread, baked beans, and even biscuits; it can be easy to have too much. Do not add salt to the foods that you give to your baby because their kidneys cannot cope with it. Avoid giving your baby ready-made foods that are not made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals, because they can also be high in salt. Check food labels. The salt content is usually given as figures for sodium. To convert sodium to salt multiply by 2.5. Food that contains 0.6g of sodium, or more, in a 100g is a lot, and foods with 0.1g, or less, in a 100g, is a little.
Fruit and vegetables – Aim for at least 5 a day. Have a variety (eat a rainbow – children find this fun to do). Peel and chop so easy to eat and readily available e.g. carrot sticks. Keep the fruit bowl full and biscuit tin empty! Portion size is roughly what would fit into the palm of their hand. Fruit on cereal+ fruit snack + veg at lunch or in lunch box + veg with evening meal + fruit for dessert = 5 a day
Get planning and get healthy