Looking Beyond the Food Pyramid – A Practical Diet Plan for Kids
Hundreds of parents, especially moms, complain about one very specific thing – My kid doesn’t eat anything or eats very less! I have gone through the same issue with my 17-month-old daughter. She is averagely built, thin and not chubby. But she is an extremely active and happy child. But alas! People will always comment on her diet, weight and thin build. Poor baby!
The fact is that the child’s stomach size is very small. In fact, the size of the child’s stomach is around the size of the child’s own fist and it is stretchable to some extent. Adults have a stomach of around 1-litre capacity which is obviously stretchable. So, we cannot expect that our child will eat the whole meal of roti, veggies, rice and dal in one go like adults do routinely, at each meal time.
‘Divide and feed’ is the basis of this diet plan for children.
They need a continuous supply of calories and energy in the form of food that needs to be given multiple times. Assuming that the basic food pyramid is fixed in all the mom’s brains by now, we will see how to plan these tiny but filling meals for kids in a practical way. Just plan a 3 cereal-based meals (basically breakfast, lunch and dinner). In most of the Indian households, poha, upma, idli dosa, sandwiches, eggs, rice, roti/paratha, veggies, khichdi, fish and chicken are common. Make sure your kid has atleast a few bites of what all meals you have prepared on that day.
Here are Some Additional Tips I Take Care
- Add ghee, homemade butter to food to increase its energy content.
- Avoid thin dals, juices, soups, watery meals as these tend to fill up tummies fast without providing enough calories.
- If there is any dessert, always give it at the end of the meal, as everybody has some extra space for sweets!
- Also, give water at the end of the meal so that they fill up their stomach with nutritious food and water doesn’t take up that space.
Then comes the tricky part which is snacks (to be given 2 to 3 times in a day). These are important as they provide the required energy and calories to kids energy between meals. Make sure the snacks are healthy too. All varieties of fruits, roasted potato sticks, a bowl of yoghurt, sooji/besan/atta laddoos, dry fruits, dates and cutlets are some great options to start with. Give finger foods that your kid can handle on their own, that’s how eating will be enjoyed by them. Avoid junk foods, chips, chocolates and biscuits which may cause unhealthy weight gain and other health-related issues in the long run. Restrict milk intake to 400-500 ml a day so it does not hamper solid food intake.
You can also introduce amla candies, tamarind candies and homemade digestives like ginger lemon ale as these will increase your child’s appetite and immunity. Avoid preparing special baby foods which are bland, unpalatable and have a weird taste. The kid will always run away from such foods! Give what you yourself can eat happily without complaining. Always taste food yourself before giving to your kid.
Remember that all kids eat when hungry! So instead of force-feeding, let your child decide the when he wants to eat and its quantity. It may be straight 2 bowls in one meal and less than half bowl in the next! That is totally fine as the degree of physical activity, playtime, moods, likes, dislikes and offered food variety will have some influence on eating. Also, some kids called as grazers, will keep on eating small meals frequently or some will be satisfied in one big meal for a longer duration.
So, do not worry! As long as the child is active, has a normal weight for the age and is not falling ill again and again, he will be healthy fit and fine!