Physical development – why do you think a balanced diet is necessary for children as young as 1 to 2 years? That’s because their body is undergoing rapid physical development and hence, needs each nutrient in an equalized proportion. Moreover, training children to eat healthy with occasional breaks in junk food is imperative for leading a healthy life!
You might wonder – is it really necessary to maintain a balanced diet for kids at such young age? Well, yes.
It is rather compulsory because the toddler has just learned to walk, is highly active all day long and is growing in centimeters every week. A complete nutritious meal is, therefore, vital to complement their rapid physical development.
Also, approximately 12 months onwards, their taste buds are fully developed, and they want to try different kinds of foods. So, it is the right time to introduce a variety of vegetables, fruits, cereals and meat, thus forming a healthy and balanced diet for a comprehensive development and also to satiate the taste buds!
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is a compilation of all the necessary minerals and nutrients one needs during each stage of growth in proper amounts. Usually, it contains substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals, iron, iodine, potassium, calcium, protein, carbohydrate and every other nutrient the body requires for proper mental and physical development. These must be consumed in balanced proportion to ensure that the bones, muscles, limbs and brains are getting enough nourishment.
Physical development – Nutrients and the role they play in a kid’s growth
Now, have a look at all the essential nutrients and their amount to be included in a toddler’s daily diet, as recommended by pediatricians.
The early years of childhood demand large amounts of calcium for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is equally important to prevent blood clotting and improve nerve, muscle and heart functioning. Hence, you can include sufficient amount of calcium rich food in their daily diet like – milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, spinach. These are all replete with calcium.
Protein helps in cell formation and converts food into energy. Therefore, adding the necessary amount of protein in all meals is a good way to ensure a full-fledged physical development of your kid. Protein rich food that you can consider feeding your toddler is- egg, fish, nuts, beans or any other poultry products.
However, remember, too much of protein can have adverse effects on their kidney. So, even if the kid wants to eat another egg or an extra piece of meat, be careful about the proportion.
Bowel movement is a problem among kids mostly because they eat in small amounts. However, including a certain amount of fiber in their daily diet is necessary for improving bowel movement. Fiber also immunes the body against cancerous diseases from an early age. Whole grain cereals like oats and whole grain flour are good for that matter.
While the mantra for grown-ups is “curb the carb,” these early years demand carbohydrate in high proportions for energy. A toddler is highly active and runs around the whole day. So, sufficient glucose is necessary to allow that kind of vigor and energy. Without running about, the limbs do not strengthen which can cause a hindrance in physical development.
- Vitamin A-
Vitamin A is essential for proper growth of eyesight, skin and to prevent infections. 300 micrograms or mcg of Vitamin A per day is ideal for proper physical development of a toddler between 1 and 3 years. Carrots, apples, sweet potato, squash, mango, papaya and peaches are excellent sources of vitamin A.
- Vitamin C-
Vitamin C assists in boosting a child’s immunity system, building healthy gums and repairing damaged cells and tissues. All these are very crucial in early childhood as kids run about, fall, play in adverse weathers and are always active. Citrus fruits, kale, guava and strawberries are the greatest sources of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin D-
A child’s body requires Vitamin D in a minimum amount (around 10 mcg per day). It helps to absorb calcium in building stronger bones and teeth. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, egg yolk and Swiss cheese are rich in Vitamin D.
Exposure to sunlight is also an additional condition to help the formation of Vitamin D in human beings.
Iron is the most important nutrient in a kid’s daily diet. It is vital for the three important physical development – brain, muscle and red cells. Deficit of iron in a toddler’s body can cause anemia and deferred mental and muscular growth. So, ensure inclusion of kidney beans, poultry products, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Apart from these, daily consumption of vitamin B complex in varying proportion is equally necessary for hair growth, proper cardiovascular functioning, cognitive development.
What if a child refuses to eat healthy food?
Veggies and fruits which are healthy in nature are often deemed as boring and tasteless by kids. Rather, they are attracted more towards, deep fried, spicy junk foods. So, feeding the tiny tots is more like a challenge for parents.
No worry as there is adequate solution for this too. Because a toddler only eats what he/she sees as nice and attractive, you can devote some time in garnishing their meals. Numerous recipes are available online that can turn the most boring veggies and cereals into delicious and healthy meals. Try them for your kid. It will both satisfy his taste buds and enhance their physical development!
Developing a healthy eating habit!
Eating healthy is a habit which can be taught from this young age. The child will thus grow up healthy and wise about his food choices! In an age when junk food has taken over the world, it is imperative to develop this wisdom from a very early age.
As a parent, it is evident to be concerned about your child’s dynamic growth and development; but remember not to grow too anxious and form too strict a diet for the kid. This will put the child in bad moods. Let him eat French fries, burgers, ice creams, nachos and such junks sometimes. That’s part and parcel of growing up.
Only pay attention to the proportion of junk he/she is eating. Do not let it become a daily habit because that won’t provide any necessary nutrient for physical development. Age 1 to 6 are the foundation years of their life; so, strengthening their teeth, eyesight, muscles, bones, brain and limbs must be the priority.