A child’s diet should be well balanced and provide all the energy needs required for a growing child. Muscular and brain development is maximum in children up to 12 years of age and the diet should be protein-rich to provide for cellular development. Children by nature are fussy eaters and need a great deal of variety in food tastes. The food provided should be easy to chew and swallow as children are restless and can rarely sit in a place for long. Ideally, children need to be fed 5 meals a day and it becomes incumbent on the caregiver to plan ahead for the next meal.
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Childhood obesity is becoming increasingly common due to the sedentary lifestyles of children, lack of exercise, increased affluence, and increasing addiction to fast food. Juvenile diabetes, lack of muscle tone in children, low energy levels, and lack of concentration are some of the ills besetting young adults today. A diet for children should include components of all the 5 food groups, be low on fat, and varied in taste. Children up to 5 years of age need not be put on to skimmed or low-fat milk as their activity levels take care of burning up excess fat. From a young age itself, children need to be made aware of the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, opting for baked or grilled food over fried food, and the necessity of staying hydrated.
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A diet plan for a child should cater to the calorific requirement of 1600 calories. It can be split into the following meals:
Breakfast (350 calories)
- A bowl of wheat cereal with nuts, raisins, and apples and a glass of low-fat milk OR 1 whole wheat tortilla roll with 2 eggs, shredded capsicum, and tomatoes OR 2 slices of whole wheat bread with an omelet made with 2 eggs.
- Vegetarians can opt for 4 idlis with a bowl of vegetable or chutney and a small bowl of salad
Mid-morning snack(150 calories)
A glass of banana milkshake or banana-yogurt smoothie
Lunch (350 calories)
- 2 slices of Whole wheat bread with shredded chicken and low-fat cream, lettuce, walnuts, and red onions
- Vegetarians can have 2 dry rotis, a bowl of dhal, a bowl of low spice steamed vegetables, and a bowl of low-fat curd.
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Mid-afternoon snack (200 calories)
- 4 crackers with low-fat cream cheese and a big bowl of chopped fruits and nuts with a scoop of ice cream.
Dinner (550 calories)
- 2 slices of toasted wheat bread with mozzarella cheese, shredded meat, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms, and broccoli OR shredded low-fat chicken with vegetables.
- Vegetarians can have 1 cup of rice or 2 dry Rotis with 1 bowl each of dhal, lightly cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, and low-fat yogurt.