With the start of the summer vacation and a rise in temperatures, children are more prone to weight gain. This is due to their changing eating habits where they would probably eat less fruits and vegetables and more sugar-filled drinks and snacks, while at the same time there is an increase in screen time.
What is a healthy and balanced diet for children?
A healthy and balanced diet for children consists of three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and two nutritious snacks.
According to USDA’S dietary recommendations, parents should make sure their children have a balanced and varied plate consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins partnered up with a source of dairy.
An adequate and healthy diet is balanced in:
Energy: Children need the right energy requirements to fuel their bodies so that they can run around, play and participate in sports activities.
Carbohydrates: With a constant supply of glucose to the brain, children will be able to improve their memory span and concentration.
Protein: Protein is important for building and maintaining muscles and bones growth in school-aged children. Indeed, children aged 5 to 8 need 19 grams of protein per day and those ages 9 to 12 require 34 grams of protein daily. Examples of high-protein foods include lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and NIDO® FORTIFIED with FORTIGROW®.
Essential Fats: School-aged children 4 years and above should consume 25 to 35 percent of their daily calorie intake from healthy fats which are important for their cognitive development. They are found in vegetable oils, avocados, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Calcium: Calcium is important in building strong bones and teeth. When calcium needs are not met during childhood, bone density suffers, increasing the risk of fractures during active play. Calcium also needs Vitamin D for its optimal absorption.
Iron and Vitamin C: These two minerals are needed not only for children’s optimal physical and cognitive performance but are also important to strengthen their immune system.
“As a general guide, fill up ½ of your child’s plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ of it with proteins, ¼ with grains and partner that up with a glass of fortified milk such as Nestlé NIDO® FORTIFIED with FORTIGROW®. In fact, Nestlé NIDO® provides your child with High-Quality Protein to aid in muscle growth, Calcium and Vitamin D to maintain normal bones and teeth, and Iron and Vitamin C to support cognitive development.” said Sarah Kanaan, Child Nutrition expert at Nestlé Middle East. “Therefore, it is crucial for children to always drink the recommended two glasses per day of fortified milk to get more than 100% of their daily Calcium needs and 75% of their daily Vitamin D needs.”
Why is a balanced diet important for children?
An adequate nutrition intake ensures children’s optimal growth and development and prevents them from having nutritional deficiencies. It also helps them maintain a healthy weight and improves their brain development and cognitive performance. This adequate nutrition intake should also be maintained during summer break by parents serving their children healthy food choices and being a role model for healthy eating behaviors.
Below are 5 tips to create a healthy summer plan for your children:
Set a summer routine: While the school routine usually creates a proper timing for regular meals, a summer schedule is important to avoid skipping some important meals and snacks especially if kids are waking up late and are spending most of their day out of the house. Make sure you set a meal schedule and serve your children breakfast, lunch and dinner at certain times every day along with two snacks in between or prepare their healthy meals in a lunchbox to go if you know they won’t be home throughout the day
Add color with some summer fruits: Provide your children with refreshing and colorful summer fruits such as watermelon, berries and mango to keep them hydrated. Put the fruits in the freezer for at least 1 hour and let your children take them as snacks on the go
Keep milk your beverage of choice: When it is too hot outside, children want to grab a cold sweetened drink to quench their thirst. Help them substitute these sugary beverages with fortified and flavored milk, which provides them with most of the nutrients their bodies need for a healthy development and also tastes good!
Encourage them to move more: Keep them busy to avoid munching while watching TV or playing on their electronic devices and encourage them to engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on preferably all days of the week. Sure it is too hot to play outside but there are many other ways to stay active. Accompany them to indoor play spaces and allow them to jump, play and run around with their friends. Remember that active kids need more water to stay hydrated during the hot summer days
Be creative: The key here is to plan ahead. Prepare meals for your children by combining ingredients in an interesting manner to make the meal more appealing. Work on colors and shapes to incite your children to eat more healthy foods. An example would be to create a flower from fruits or a smiling face from eggs and toast or a solar system plate using different vegetables