In order to grow strong and healthy, children need to have a balanced diet. The clue to having a balanced diet is to include a variety of healthy foods so that children get all the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients that their bodies need for growth, to build healthy bones and maintain strong muscles and a healthy weight. The balanced diet for children must consist of a variety of vegetables and fruits, grains, dairy products and lean protein.
During the first few years of their life, children experience rapid growth and, therefore, need to have a variety of foods. The body weight of a baby increases almost three times during the first year of its life. The baby relies entirely on its mother’s breast milk or a baby formula to provide the calories and nutrition that it needs to go through this rapid growth stage. A child continues to grow through its early childhood, though not as rapidly as in the first year, but need protein, calories, iron, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D and other nutrients in order to support their growth.
During early childhood, the brain develops rapidly and nutrition is very important for it to develop in a healthy manner. The amino acids as well as fatty acids present in breast milk are essential for optimal development of brain during infancy. The development of the brain continues through early childhood and children need to have a balanced diet so as to assimilate the vitamins and other nutrients required for the brain. A child that does not eat a balanced diet during the early childhood is at a higher risk of developing not only mental retardation, but also behavioral problems.
Calcium is a very important mineral that children need in order to develop stronger bones and teeth. Children get calcium required for development through their diet. Additionally, they also require phosphorous and vitamin D for bone development. It is, therefore, important that they have two to three servings of dairy products, including low-fat milk, natural cheese and low-fat yogurt during childhood in order to avoid the possibility of developing osteoporosis later on in life.
As a child grows bigger and stronger, the muscle mass of the child also increases and it is important to have a balanced diet to support this growth. The mineral iron, in particular, is very essential for the development of muscles. Some of the iron-rich foods that they need to have during childhood include lean meats, beans, fish, nuts, green vegetables and grains fortified with iron.
A balanced diet does not only support a child’s physical development in early childhood, but also caters to their psychological development which can include the eating patterns that they will follow in future. Young children must, therefore, get accustomed to eating a variety of healthy foods in a relaxed as well as pleasant environment. Parents who are keen on exposing their children to a wide variety of foods and acting as role models to them will support development of right attitudes and healthy eating patterns in them.