Health can be described as the level of metabolic efficiency of a living being or organism. In humans, it is described as the ability of the body to adapt to and manage itself when faced with physical, social or mental changes. A healthy food intake is one of the most important factors that influence an individuals health status. This essay will discuss steps that can be taken to develop a healthy menu for infants, toddlers, and children. It will also outline some safety issues related to food as well as menu items for diverse cultures and children with special dietary needs.
Nutrition for Infants
Infants being very young and not having a fully developed immune system require the most consideration when it comes to food intake. A proper menu for an infant should be a wholesome meal that comprises all necessary nutritional value. Infants should be well breastfed as a total meal solution but also given some soft solid foods that will supplement the breast milk or formula they are given. For infants under the age of three months, it is advisable to feed them at least three basic meals a day comprising just breastmilk or formula. At this age, infants are hungry continually thus are frequently fed on demand. At the age of between three up to eight months, infants should be slowly introduced to solid meals comprising soft foods like pumpkin, ripe fruits, and baby cereal. These solids should be fed to the infant in small servings of between one and four ounces per day. At eight up to twelve months of age, infants are more receptive to solids and require more of it at their growing and development stage where they are just learning to crawl. Solid foods should however not replace breast milk until the infant is at least a year and a half old.
Whole cow milk should not be introduced as a drink until twelve months of age since it does not have the correct balance of nutrients. Baby food stored in jars can easily spoil causing illness thus should be fed with care and not directly from the jar. Pumping of breast milk should be done hygienically and stored properly so as to prevent contamination or/and spoiling. Formula should be mixed well in the correct ration under a hygienic environment. It should also be stored safely. When heating baby formula, avoid using a microwave to avoid overheating which can burn the babys mouth and throat.
Nutrition for Toddlers
Toddlers also have a specified menu that should be given to them to promote good health and development at that particular stage of growth and development. The rule of thumb when preparing a balanced menu for toddlers is to have lots and lots of protein. This is because it is at this stage where they experience the most development from infancy into childhood. A typical toddler menu should be consisting of about four meals a day; breakfast, snack, lunch another snack and finally dinner. Unlike with other kids, toddlers breakfast should not be heavy. It can comprise of grain and cereal based foods like warm oatmeal, whole grain and toast. Fruits like bananas and fortified fruit juice should be inclusive of a balanced breakfast. Protein in form of dairies (milk and yoghurt) and meat like sausage and turkey should be added to the breakfast catalog but only in small portions in a week (1 or 2). Mid-morning snacking should be made light mostly comprising fruits and carbohydrate energy builders. Snacks are essentially for refueling throughout the day.
Lunch should offer different food groups than those fed during the morning meal. Snacks should be avoided at least two hours before lunch to avoid appetite changes during the meal. High-calorie drinks like juice and milk should also be limited before and during lunch. A typical toddlers lunch should be balance with lots of vegetables and fruits. Grains should be minimized with a side serving of protein like meat. A glass of juice or milk is a good addition to the wholesome meal.
An afternoon snack eaten two or three hours after lunch will keep your child energetic and focused as the day goes on. It can consist of thin pieces of fruit like apple slices with a few cubes of cheese or boiled egg quartile cuts. This meal should be nutritious and served at the same time on a daily basis to keep the child from snacking mindlessly.
Dinner is the meal toddlers tend to eat least since they are usually exhausted from the days activities and having already met their nutrient needs from the earlier snacks and meals. Parents should not push their toddler kids to eat but rather trust their appetite when they communicate that they are full. Dinner should be made tasty with a colorful and fun presentation when possible. It can include; some grain based food like noodles, a side of diced or sliced fruit, some veggies maybe a little-grated cheese to tempt the toddler, milk or yogurt on the side and body building protein like meatloaf or shredded chicken.
Toddlers should have a regular eating ritual that is followed on a daily basis. At this stage of growth, they are ready to start having a specified structure to their feeding schedule as opposed to infants who should be fed on demand. Precaution should be taken when feeding toddlers since a lot of things could go terribly wrong at this stage of growth. Choking hazards are at the top of the list of major concerns when feeding toddlers. It is easy for toddlers to get chocked if they are fed large pieces of food for example fruit that has not been well sliced or diced for easy consumption. Close supervision is advisable to avoid choking. Care should also be taken in the preparation of food since a lot of illnesses can be passes through unhygienic handling of food.
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Nutrition for Children
Children over the age of 5 years are experiencing a lot of growth and as such should be well fed to ensure they develop well and live a healthy life. At this age the childs food preferences are well established even though childrens tastes can continue to evolve. It is important to provide them with foods rich in energy so as to fuel them through the day as they run off to school or embark on other energy draining activities. Meals should be packed with enough carbohydrates that will provide the required energy amounts and also some body building proteins that will help develop the childs body. Three meals a day are ideal for children at this age, but regular snacking is also advisable to replenish lost energy and nutrients. Breakfast should be ample and filled with proteins and carbohydrates with a side of fruit to provide vitamins to the wholesome meal. Lunch should consist of lots of vegetables and some protein so as to keep the child satisfied throughout the afternoon all the way up till dinner. However, a midafternoon snack can be provided to keep their energy up. Dinner can be light with a large portion of vegetables and proteins with some starch and fruit to supplement. Salad dressing should be added to make it more nutritious and tastier.
Just like any young child, care should be taken when preparing kids food with consideration to high hygienic standards. Raw or partially cooked foods should be avoided since they could cause stomach problems or other illnesses. Candy and other sugary edibles should also be avoided to maintain healthy dental conditions.
Various cultures around the world also have special foods fed to children. In many cultures, pastes of grain and fluids are a babys first food. Among the Hindu ceremonials, sweetened rice porridge is fed to an infant. Other cultural foods for children include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, beans, fish, classic pork among many more.
Some children experience various eating problems and disorders that affect their food intake leading to growth and development issues. These problems include; eating small amounts of food, having poor appetite, lacking a feeding structure and other related issues. For such children, there are special foods that will enable them to feed in a healthy manner with consideration to their particular needs. Thick fluids like porridge and soup are great foods to keep high appetites in children. Serious dietary concerns like diabetes can be managed by feeding diabetic children non-sugary foods that have high nutritional value. Whole grains with little or no sugar content make great meals for diabetic children. Vegetables and fruits should also be taken in large amounts.