Children’s Dietary Needs

Children’s Dietary Needs

Being a mother to one dashing boy nicknamed “The Champ” this topic of Childhood Nutrition is very close to my heart. As alluded to in an earlier post, the food lifestyle inculcated in a child will go on to affect his or her own food choices in adulthood and will have an impact not only in childhood health but also in adulthood health. Children like adults need ample nutrients for growth and development, for energy to engage in physical activities like sports and play and also to fulfill the academic rigors that their phase of life calls for.

The nutritional needs that very child needs are pegged on the following factors;
1. Growth requirements – children who are growing rapidly require more nutrients than those whose growth has hit a plateau phase.
2. Physical requirements – When children engage in sports and play their requirements for energy increase too.
3. Consider too the gender of a child – boys generally consume more food and have greater nutritional requirements than girls.
4. Body size and shape – Children who are generally bigger than their counterparts will require more nutrients than their smaller shaped counterparts.
5. Genetic background – A child may have an inborn propensity towards or dislike to a certain food. For example it is almost universal that children generally like sweet things but
dislike vegetables.

Consider too the following nutrients that every child needs for optimum growth and development.
Carbohydrates and fats are needed to meet energy for growing needs and physical activity of children. Examples of foods classified under carbohydrates include; potatoes, maize flour,
wheat flour, rice, sweet potatoes. Proteins on the other hand are used to build, maintain and repair body tissues. Foods rich in protein include both animal and plant sources for example meat, fish, chicken, milk, beans and peas.

Vitamins and minerals support growth and development during child hood. Calcium a mineral for example is needed for bone and teeth development. Calcium can be obtained from milk and dairy products and green leafy vegetables. Iron on the other hand is also a very important nutrient needed for the formation of blood. Meat, fish and poultry are all good sources of iron. Vitamins such as Vitamin A and C and B complex type of vitamins are also important for child growth and development. In parting for today, the following should be borne in mind when making food choices for our beloved children:

Half of the plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.

Consider whole grain cereals which have not been processed as they are very rich in nutrients.

Rather than frying food consider boiling, grilling or steaming food.

By all means limit the amount of fast food , junk food, sweets and confectionery that your children eat.

Instead of sugary drinks, juices and sodas consider water and good old milk for the benefit of your child’s health.

Limit the amount of salt that children take by removing salt shakes from the table. We want our children healthy, maintaining a healthy weight in order to fulfill their childhood
obligations. In order to achieve that, let us ensure that our children engage in physical activity.

Finally, if as a parent you are concerned about the nutritional needs of your child(ren) do not hesitate to make an appointment with a paediatrician or nutritionist.

In my next article we will look in detail at the different nutritional needs of children in different age groups.
“Wacha niKwambie Uzima”
May 2017 – Watoto wetu.
Focus on Nutritional needs of children.
Elizabeth Kwamboka Nyambane
Bsc Food Science and Post harvet Technology,
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology 2001
The writer of this article though a non practising food scientist is keen on human wellness
issues of which good nutrition is just but one of the links to complete human wellness. This
article is just an information guide for in depth professional guidance on nutritional needs of
children do not hesitate to seek the counsel of a paediatrician and/or nutritionist.
Thank you for reading this article.