By Vega Schools

Growth years are the building blocks for the entire lifetime. For parents, it is not only essential to understand the food and nutritional requirement, but they also need to inculcate good fooding manners. The latter ensures that the good fooding habits are taken up as habit and not as a burden by the kids.

Growth year nutrition is important due to the following:

  • Physical growth: Supplementation necessary for optimum physical growth
  • Brain development: Remain sharp and focused for the steep learning curve
  • Internal well being: Good eating habits keeps your body healthy and resistive to infections
  • Energy to sustain: Energize them for those vital extracurricular activities

What are the essential requirements?

How to make the kids have the food?


Nutrients and their sources

There are some essential nutrients that are a must for kids aged between 4 years to 12 years. The food for kids should have these essentials to ensure that the child is not deficient in any nutrient. Regular food items and the nutrients are as mentioned below.

Protein in the form of Lean Meat (Poultry, Fish, Eggs), Beans, Pulses, Nuts, Milk products should be included in all the meals of a child as it’s essential for growing muscles or active brains.

Calcium is the key constituent in bones and teeth and it gets utilized for their growth. The sources include milk products and green leafy vegetables

Zinc from nuts, eggs, legumes and beans are also crucial for boosting immunity, improves focus and attention span. It supports physical growth and better gut function in kids.

Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a type of protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body. Without enough iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen, which leads to fatigue.

B vitamins from fruits and green vegetables also are crucial for children it is essential to promote brain development. It helps the release of brain chemicals like serotonin, which regulates moods, and norepinephrine, which helps in coping with stress.

Nutrient proportion as per age of children

Also, as per the age of your child, there is a certain limit specified for each type of nutrition. The ICMRNIN (Indian Council of Medical Research National Institute of Nutrition) has specified the age specific nutrient quantity requirement for optimized growth of children.

Table 1: Nutrient proportion as per age

  4-6 years 7-9 years 10-12 years*

Calories: Boys: 2190 Girls: 1970

Energy Requirement  1000 1690  1950

Protein 12.5g 23g 33g

Calcium 550 mg/d 650mg/d 1000-1050 mg/d

Iron 11mg/d 15mg/d Boys: 16mg/d Girls: 28mg/d

Source: ICMRNIN.

*In the pre-teen years, girls require higher amounts of calories and iron.

Diet spread and concept of Anchor Food

With the choice of food available around us, it sometimes becomes confusing to map the nutrient basis food choices. So, the 4 basic spread types and their nutrients are as mentioned below.

Table 2: Food and related nutrients

Food Type                             Nutrient constituency*

Oils, nuts, oil seeds                      1000-1690

Milk, meat and sea food               12.5g

Vegetables and fruits                    550 mg/d

Cereals and pulses                       11mg/d

* Please note that there are deviations in nutrients proportions among the food types mentioned below. Though parents can use the below as a reference for easy recall and remembrance.

It is pretty easy to miss out on certain nutrients in a particular day. While this can be a one-off case, it is not advisable for parents to follow the concept of ANCHOR FOOD to cover all nutrient types. ANCHOR FOODS are the often repeated/ base food types which ensure that all nutrients are consumed more often than not. The following ANCHOR FOOD guide can be followed by the parents as it’s easy to remember and implement in daily meals. 

Picture 1: ANCHOR FOOD choices


Factors influencing child’s eating habits

Different reactions are observed with children in the manner they accept and consume food. The following 4 factors influence the food eating behavior and they are prominent from a very young age itself.

  • Development skills – Ease of chewing and swallowing
  • Taste buds – Likes and dislikes to various foods
  • Neophobia – A phobia which prevents kids from trying new food
  • Ability to adjust calories to needs

Guidance is necessary

  1. They observe and learn – Let them see you have healthy food
  2. Exposure – Correct food exposure makes them lean to good habits
  3. Skills and instincts-based motivation– Assess both and accordingly guide and motivate them
  4. Push- Don’t push them too much, else they develop dislike. Small portions increasing gradually work better

Steps suggested to inculcate good eating behavior

A 6-step guideline is suggested to inculcate good fooding behavior in your child

STEP ONE: Learn to understand your child’s hunger signals

Pick the specific signals:

  • Kids ask about the menu
  • Kids ask about whereabout of other members
  • Kids looking for snacks/ opening fridge/ entering kitchen
  • Disinterest in their activity

STEP TWO: Manage Mealtime

  • Establish set times for meals and snacks to help your child understand hunger and routine
  • Spread ANCHOR FOOD as per these set patterns
  • The time plan should be based on cues derived from STEP ONE

STEP THREE: Create the “Family Table”

Make it like a family get together every day (breakfast and dinner can be the suggested meals included)– They watch and inculcate the behavior followed by you.

STEP FOUR: Identify favorites to serve

Make a list of food your family eats often.

Also, ensure to keep your child’s favorite food item along with other servings.

Try to keep a good and varied spread. Choose among fruits, vegetables, cereals/ grains, lean meat/ eggs/ paneer/ soya, pulses, milk products, nuts/ seeds. If you are putting in some processed foods, the count should be upto 3 ingredients per day.

STEP FIVE: Offer new preparations

Atleast twice a week, offer your child a food he / she doesn’t eat or hasn’t tried before.

  1. Put a small amount of new food on the plate
  2. Make sure there are 1 or 2 food he / she likes on the plate as well
  3. On the “family table”, talk positively about all food on the plate
  4. Do not pressurize your child to try the new food ???? repeat after few days as it was talked positively by other members during the last occasion.

Top Gurgaon schools should play a role in partnering with parents to establish good food habits in learners. As a top school in Gurgaon, Vega serves nutritious and balanced meals in the cafeteria. Here is a checklist for parents to get them started. Wish parents the best of luck as they embark on this wonderful journey of imbibing good fooding habits in their children.

Dt. Moumita Kumar

Disclaimer: The author of this article is a parent at Vega Schools. Views expressed are personal.

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 A checklist for parents