Planning a Balanced Diet for Children

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1) Young children between 18 & 36 months learn some of their attitudes towards food in this period and begin to develop tastes and preferences for certain types of foods. It’s very important that we plan menus to provide meals that are nutritionally balanced as well as taking into account the parents needs and wishes in relation to their children’s dietary needs, taking into account and food allergies, intolerances and diseases.

From 18-36 months children are growing rapidly in height and should be very active, needing a diet containing enough energy and protein to aid this growth. At this age children require a ‘nutrient dense’ diet containing foods which are high in calories as well as high in nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.

It’s important to avoid foods high in calories and saturated fats (e.g. crisps and sweets) which have little food value and no nutrients, as they take up space in children’s little stomachs.

At this age range it’s very important that children eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

It’s important to provide children with foods similar to those they eat at home and its therefore important to involve parents in meal planning; parents can provide suggestions and recipes which they use at home.

Foods to avoid for children under 3 years
Food Reason to avoid
Salt This can cause kidney problems and later health problems. Don’t add salt when cooking and try not buy food containing salt Honey Can contain dangerous bacteria as well as cause tooth decay Sugar Can cause tooth decay and gives a liking for sugary foods later on Whole/ chopped nuts Can be a choking hazard. Can be fatal if allergies Raw/ partially cooked eggs If not thoroughly cooked can contain bacteria and cause food poisoning Shark, marlin, swordfish These fish can contain mercury and should be avoided Low fat, low calorie foods ‘Diet’ low-calorie foods aren’t good for children because they need foods with lots of nutrients. Low-fat dairy products also need to be avoided as children need full fat versions e.g. full fat yoghurt High fibre foods Bran, wholemeal pasta and brown rice are very high in fibre and prevent children from digesting other nutrients. Wholemeal bread is fine

Planning balanced meals, snacks and drinks

This needs careful consideration and should be done in consultation with parents.

Understanding the principles of nutrition
‘Balanced’ diet is often associated with healthy eating. A balanced diet is one with adequate nutrients in the correct amounts for children and adults. The ‘Eatwell plate’ (see below) shows the 5 categories of nutrients which are: 1.Fruit and vegetables

2.Milk and dairy products
3.Bread, rice, potatoes and other starchy foods
4.Food and drinks high in fat and sugars
5.Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein

For a diet to be considered balanced, all meals and snacks, throughout the day must provide children with sufficient nutrients.

Unbalanced diets
These can lead to health problems in children. As an example too little iron can lead to a child feeling tired, whereas a diet containing too much energy rich food can cause the body to convert excess energy into fat stores and lead to the child becoming overweight.

Estimated average requirements for calorie intake
Age Males Females
(MJ)(kcal)(MJ)(kcal)
0-3 mo 2.28(545)216(515)
4-6 mo 2.29(690)2.69(645)
7-9 mo 3.44(825)3.20(765)
10-12 mo 3.85(920)3.61(865)
1-3 yr5.15(1230)4.86(1165)

Effects of a poor diet on health
* poor growth * cardiovascular disease * heart problems *cancer in later life * Type 2 Diabetes * tooth decay
* Musculoskeletal problems * lack of energy * tiredness
* low self-esteem or low self image * high risk of weight problems in later life

Factors to consider when planning a diet for children

1. Salt
Too much salt (sodium chloride) is dangerous for adults...
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