Tuesday, March 03, 2015
What diet is healthy for a child? This question plagues the mind of every doting mother. Recent guidelines by the American Academy of Paediatrics recommend a simple common sense approach to child nutrition. They suggest including foods from the 5 food groups throughout the week, offering foods in their least processed form, using small amounts of sugar, salt and fat to make food tasty, and serving appropriate portion sizes to children.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the guidelines spell out a 5-step approach to healthy eating that not only pertains to children but to adults too. The 5-step approach is as follows:
• Foods from the 5 groups, namely fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products and high quality proteins from fish, eggs, beans, and nuts should be incorporated in the diet.
• A wide variety of foods from these food groups should be consumed throughout the week.
• Foods should be consumed in their most natural and least processed state.
• Only small amounts of sugar, fat and salt should be used during food preparation. For example, sugary drinks or sweetened whole grain cereals can be substituted with flavoured milk.
• Children should be served appropriate portion sizes in keeping with their age.
The policy paper issued by the American Academy of Paediatrics followed up on an update published a decade back regarding limiting the access to sugary drinks and high calorie foods in schools. They noted a definite improvement in the suggested areas. However, Dr. Robert Murray, one of the lead authors of the paper, found that students still bring calorific foods in their lunch boxes.
The authors recommend better nutrition education of parents and school staff and greater involvement of paediatricians in schools to bring about a marked change in the nutritional habits of children. "Parents should look for every opportunity to make small, simple improvements in the nutritional value of the foods and drinks they provide children, in school and out," said Dr. Murray.
They also believe that a total diet approach rather than restriction of nutrients is a better way to bring about a change in dietary habits. Parents could support schools in enforcing good nutrition by being mindful of nutrition while preparing and packing lunchboxes and carefully planning family meals and celebrations.
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