Children require the full spectrum of nutrients in their diet to grow healthy and reach their potential. Let’s take a look at these necessary food groups.

Early childhood is a time of tremendous growth. These young, growing bodies need a good balance of different foods to fuel their development. Having the right foods in the right proportions also ensures that children will maintain a healthy weight and optimum growth. The suggested caloric intake by the Malaysian dietary guidelines for children and adolescents are as below:

 

Recommended caloric intake for children and adolescents by the National Coordinating Committee of Food and Nutrition (NCCFN, 2005)

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When picking out your child’s daily food platter, here are a few guidelines to follow:

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  • Located at the bottom of the food pyramid, a large part of your child’s diet should consist of carbohydrates. They are the body’s main source of energy, and make up 55 to 70% of total daily energy intake.
  • Good sources include cereals, wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats and millet.
  • Include as much whole grain as you can. Alternatives such as brown rice, unprocessed cereals and whole wheat bread are high in dietary fibre, which means they bring health benefits such as promoting healthy bowel movements and preventing the development of cardiovascular diseases from an early age.
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  • E ncourage kids to eat them every day! They are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they are a good source of fibre.
  • Dark green vegetables are the ones that are best for your child as they are higher in fibre content. That said, include a variety of vegetables like cucumber, tomato, broccoli and carrots – the more colourful, the better.
  • Fruits make great snacks, best served fresh. Avoid canned fruits or juices that contain added sugars or preservatives.
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  • Incorporate the better options of protein which are fish, lean meat, eggs, beans and nuts.
  • Steam or grill your meat of choice rather than fry.
  • Include soy products and legumes which are high in protein in your child’s meals. You could introduce tempeh to your kids or cook soup using red beans, peas or dhall.
  • Unsalted and unsweetened nuts are high in protein and are great for munching on.
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  • Milk and milk products are rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, which are essential for the growth and well-being of children.
  • The Ministry of Health recommends children to have 2-3 servings of milk per day. Start by adding milk to your child’s cereal every morning.
  • Opt to replace coconut and condensed milk with powdered milk in your food and drinks.

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of HealthToday.