Nowadays, school-going children are more attracted to junk and ready-to-eat food than fruits and vegetables. Their dietary habits are often affected by their peers in school and the media they’re exposed to.
Even a few decades ago, children grew up in mostly joint families where their dietary habits were influenced by their grandparents or other elders in the family. This may have made them more inclined to consume more traditional and healthier food on a regular basis. Since this may not be the case now, it’s easy for nutritional deficiencies to occur. It’s therefore very important to closely monitor the food habits of school-going children at this point.
Role of nutrients in development
Nutrients play a very important role in the growth and development of children. Carbohydrates, protein and fats provide energy. Proteins help form antibodies that fight infections and are found in good sources are milk and milk products, dals etc. If your family is non-vegetarian, then your children may get their fill of protein and other nutrients via chicken, fish, eggs in their diet too. Fats are also important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and so, they have to have ghee in small amounts too.
Do not forget to send children out to spend time engaging in sports like badminton, basketball or cricket. These days it has been noticed that after school children prefer to watch television or play games on mobile phones. While you can’t avoid screen time, make sure they get some physical activity as without it they may be at risk of becoming overweight. As far as nutrition goes, they will also get a good dose of Vitamin D from being outdoors.
Calcium is required for healthy bones, therefore, don’t let them skip out on milk and milk products in their diet. They can have fruit shakes in the evening and curd with their lunch and dinner both.
Include green leafy vegetables in their diet so that the iron levels in their body are maintained. Iron is important for the formation of haemoglobin. Also, have them eat fresh, seasonal fruits like orange, grapes for vitamin C. Put them into the habit of carrying their water bottle to school or whenever they’re going out so they can remain hydrated. You can also serve them refreshing homemade beverages like shikanji instead of soft drinks.
Recommendations to instil good dietary habits
Special nutrition classes that focus on topics such as a balanced diet and the benefits of different nutrients should be conducted in school. Ideally, their schools can arrange recipe contests where they learn healthy food recipes, prepare food at home with the help of their parents and then display it in school, while talking about the benefits of the dish. Nutrition-related games and puzzles can be used for their learning.
At home, parents should designate a specific area to eat their meals in, like the dining table or the traditional way of eating on floors. Parents should guide their children to not talk, watch television or use their mobile phone/tablet while eating. Learning how to eat mindfully will aid their health and wellbeing in the future.
This article was written by Ms Sonali Saxena, Sr Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis La Femme, New Delhi.
For more information, read our article on Balanced diet.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.