Kid’s Food Habits from Birth to Teens – A complete Guide PART 1
In the fetal stage
The basement of human’s nutrition starts from embryo stage. As soon as an embryo gets attached to mother’s uterus he needs nutrition and food for his growth. If it’s the case of normal birds’ eggs, everything is already present inside egg’s shells – fats, proteins and everything. It’s not the case of human beings or animals. An embryo gets everything from its mother till it’s born on earth. So, if mother doesn’t take nutritious food, it affects her child’s growth. In the last 3 months, the baby needs more food and oxygen and if not given sufficient food, it affects the kid’s growth and mental development. If the new born baby is below 2 kilos (LBW – Low birth weight), it can be assumed that he didn’t get sufficient nutrition. Such kids have low brain weight, undeveloped brain structure, have less number of brain cells and may even have brain damages. Though loss of weight can be compensated by giving them good food later, their brain development and damages are not at all easy to compensate! Through this article let me give you a brief summary of food habits that are essentially needed to be followed in the different stages of a child’s growth.
A new born baby
As soon as a kid is born, the most essential food he needs is mother’s milk. It’s nothing short of a medicine or vaccination that prepares the child’s body for his future life and immunity. As soon as a lady becomes pregnant, her body witnesses several changes. Gain of body weight is the most noticed change. It’s one of the methods through which nature itself prepares mother’s body for a child’s birth. Mother’s body becomes a reservoir for kid’s food much earlier than he is born on earth. All energy is being stored for the first six months of the baby. So, if a mother breast feeds the child till he reaches 6 months, she automatically sheds those extra pounds added and attains the previous body shape. It’s a myth that mother loses her body shape if she breast feeds her baby. The true fact is that those extra pounds will remain after six months if mother doesn’t breast feed her kid resulting her loss of body shape. It even results in obesity. To avoid breast cancer, a mother should feed her child at least for the first 100 days. If she feeds the child till reaches 2 years, mother assures the best milk for her child. It’s the most cheap, yet most nutritious and easily digestible food material available on earth for a kid!
Breast milk is the best food of a new born infant and as it is easy digestible, best suited food for a baby’s digestive system. Breast milk not only gives immunity power to the kid, but also develops a mental bond between child and his mother. Very often mother complains that child cries even after feeding. So she often feels that milk might be insufficient. Actually it may not be reason. If a child urinates 6 times a day, it can be assured that he is not at all hungry. May be because he wants to stay close to his mother even after feeding! For this reason too, a baby may cry.
When he reaches 6 months old
But when he reaches 6 months, breast milk alone cannot provide all nutrients for a baby. Such food items initiated at 6 months necessarily emphasizes the need of breast milk till 6 months. You can increase the intervals of breast feeding at this stage. Instead other liquid foods can be started. Porridge made from banana powder can be started at this stage. Crushed fruits, vegetables with less fiber and tubers can be slowly added at this stage. All food items can be slowly introduced to his food one by one and when he reaches two, he should be acquainted with all food products a normal man eats. If so, he will eat any type of food materials a normal man eats. When he reaches 2, he intakes half amount of food of an adult.
Cereals should be included in his normal food. Though milk and eggs are good sources of proteins, energy is supplied by carbohydrates that are found abundant in cereals. So, if required energy of a child is not provided through carbohydrates, proteins needed for the growth of muscles will be used as supplements of energy needed for normal activities. Thus proteins get wasted. Excess fats and sugar should be avoided in a child’s food as both are not at all good for his health. Excess fats adversely affect his bone growth and may pave way to obesity in future. It also damages his teeth.
Never use mixer to grind his food. If so, he will never learn how to chew the food. It’s better to add non-vegetarian food after one year old.
Give him complete breakfast
Malnutrition is mostly exhibited in kids of age group 1-5 years. According to studies, such kids get only 1/3rd of his required energy through food he eats. Proteins too become deficit. When he quits breakfast, a lot of energy required to keep his body activities in equilibrium is lost this way. It’s the case of both big towns as well as remote villages where kids have become a part of ‘fast food’ of ‘bread’ culture. Fast food gives nothing nutritious to kids or makes his mind and body active. In fact, such bad food habits of pizzas, burgers and sandwiches adversely affect his health as well. So it’s most important that we should give him traditional food.
Idli, dosa or chappathi – such food items are rich in carbohydrates and best for kids. With a side dish like a vegetable curry, chutney or sambar, it becomes a balanced food. But kids of new generation are not at all acquainted of such traditional food items. New generation diseases like diabetics, cholesterol, kidney problems and high blood pressure are the byproducts of such bad food habits. If those mistakes are not corrected now itself, it gradually leads to the long distance between kids of today and traditional food items of yesterdays and gives only such new generation diseases as savings!
When a kid reaches 5, he may develop interests towards certain types of food and may keep distance from others. A kid will have his own personal choices at this age. He may be interested more in games and sports than food. If no one reminds him about food, he makes a habit to quit meals and sleep tired with empty stomach, which adversely affects both his physical and mental growth. From 5 to 8 years, he takes somewhat equal amount of food. From 8 to 12 years, he takes less food comparing his early stage. But during this stage, his body needs extra food and nutrition as his interior organs take structural changes during this stage. So, he needs best food both in quantity as well as in nutritious factors.
Take time to eat
When someone takes less time to eat, the food is not chewed well and he may not take sufficient food. If so, the food is not digested well also. Thus more than 3/4th of taken food goes waste and he becomes deficient in nutrition. Till 9, food requirement of boy and girl are almost equal. But when he or she enters teens, he needs more food intake. This growth in girls is in between 11 and 14 and between 13 and 16 in boys. Internal changes, hormone changes and basal metabolism reach peak during this age. It’s that particular stage when kids, particularly girls reduce food intake to remain slim and in good shape. If so, it adversely affects her immunity power and dangers those functions of giving birth to new generation in the distant future.
Let them feel hunger and thirst
Now it’s the time of atomic families when parents have only one or two kids. So, they became over protective in their kids and feed them whatever necessary and what not actually needed. What are its end results? When a kid hesitates to eat, parents will try their best to feed them with food. Result is that it develops a feeling in kids that by having food, we are doing a great thing for parents, what we call sacrifice. A child will never think that he is eating food for his own needs. This falsely conveyed message will never prompt him to enjoy the food he eats. A child is busier with his games than having food at correct time. There is a good strategy to deal with such food hesitant children. Allow them to play as they wish and wait till hunger and thirst develop in them. If so, he will eat food as his requisite, not as a sacrifice for his mother.
Hunger and thirst together forms a vital part of human life. Only duty of parents is to permit their kids to reach that stage, so that they can enjoy the food and take it for their own need. When a kid hesitates to take breakfast, it becomes a battle fought between mother and kid in the early morning before he leaves to school. If so, if a kid thinks that it’s the best sacrifice done by him to his mother, can we blame him? Not at all!
My kid loves only sweets and bakery items; he uses only his front teeth to chew food; he drinks several cups of tea; he hesitates to take chilly food; his most favourite food items are noodles and burgers – these are the common complaints of parents. But if we ask parents, from where do kids get such things, they become speechless. So, it means, such bad food habits are initiated by none other than parents. Kids normally like less chilly added food and it’s best for their health too. If a kid uses only front teeth to chew the food, it means he is unsatisfied with the food he eats. It’s parents’ duty to develop good food habits in children at an early stage itself. It may take a little time and needs continuous observation and teachings; yet it’s necessarily needed.
A few common points to note:
After 6 months, a feeding mother can reduce the amount of feeding milk given to the child. Instead she can introduce cereals and fruits as porridges. You can start with cooked rice, ghee and a bit of salt this age; but can avoid spices and chillies. Also it’s better to avoid fish, meat and eggs till he reaches 1. Let him grow as a pure vegetarian till he reaches one. Never use a mixer to grind the food. If so, the kid will lose preliminary lessons of chewing and tasting food.
A newborn baby with 3 kilogram weight will reach around 10 kg when he reaches one. So the parents should ensure that their kid has been provided the enough nutrients and food to reach this level. After one year old, you can start with non-vegetarian items. Porridges, cereals, fruits and feeding milk give complete nutrition to a one year old kid.
After one year old, the kid’s weight will start reducing. For the same reason, he may feel less appetite. Without knowing this, some parents may be anxious. A kid whose weight increases by 6-7 kg in the first year may show gain of weight of 1.5-2 during his second year. It’s normal. But it should be noted that mental development of a kid happens in between 2 and 5, their brain should be provided enough nutrients. So they should be given food at 7 or 8 regular intervals. If your kid is going to kindergarten, never start bad food habits for his intervals. His tiffin should also be nutritious. Packet food items and fast food are always better to avoid.
20 useful tips to note:
- Start with solid food items when the baby reaches 6 months. But he should be given breast milk also. Give him breast milk half hour before solid food.
- If an infant is not getting sufficient breast milk, after 2-3 months start with fresh juice habits. 1-3 teaspoon is enough at a younger stage.
- It’s better to prepare his food without salt, sugar or spices.
- Porridge should be prepared with hygiene. Boil all the utensils used for the purposes with hot water.
- Never compel him too much to have the porridge. Instead you can repeat it daily till he adjusts to the new food.
- When you introduce him to a solid food, give it once a day. Slowly you can increase the dose. When he reaches 6 months, you can give him 3 times.
- Give him sufficient water.
- Avoid milk and milk products as much as possible till he reaches one.
- Diseases and summer can keep away a kid from food. If the conditions are not restored consult a doctor.
- You can add a little coconut oil or coconut milk to the food prepared using rice or ragi.
- Never heat and reuse the food items. Never gave him too hot or too cold food items too.
- Wheat products are not easy to digest. So it’s better to avoid porridge with wheat at a younger age.
- Never give him solid food in bottles by adding more water.
- When his teeth come out, you can give him food items to chew. For example, biscuit, sliced fruits or cooked vegetables etc.
- When he reaches 6 months old, you can add cooked banana, potatoes, sweet potatoes or carrot to his meal.
- You can make soup using leafy vegetables and add a little coconut oil to it.
Here I come to the end of the first stage of a kid’s growth and his food. Wait for more updates.
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