Supercharge your child’s diet with these must-have nutrients.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
Our experts Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre and Natalie Goh, chief dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital give their take on the best possible diet for your child.
According to Goh, adequate protein intake is necessary for all ages and for tissue replacement, deposition of lean body mass and growth. Human milk provides adequate protein for the first six months even though it’s lesser than infant formula. From six to 12 months, babies need to be supplemented with high-quality protein such as strained meat/fish/chicken, tofu, lentils, beans and yoghurt.
For older children, nuts and seafood can be introduced for
more protein choices. Protein is required for life and the amount
increases as a child grows older.
Sources of carbohydrates include rice, oats, noodles, bread, fruits and starchy vegetables. It provides fibre, vitamins and most importantly energy. However, there is a risk of obesity if the child overconsumes these foods, Chia cautions. It also displaces other nutritious foods from other food groups. This nutrient need does increase with age.
The brain, being a complex organ by itself, requires many different nutrients for it to grow and develop, Goh highlights. A few key nutrients would be protein, fat, choline and omega-3. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that plays a key role in normal brain development in children. Fish, especially the deep sea fatty fish are a good source of omega-3. Egg yolk also contains small amounts of omega-3 fat. Avoid swordfish, king mackerel and albacore tuna which contains a higher amount of mercury.
Fat provides energy and some fats are considered essential fatty acids e.g. omega-3 which cannot be produced by the body. Olive oil, canola oil, dairy products, nuts, seeds and oily fishes are some sources of fat. Chia advises keeping the total fat intake between 30 to 40 per cent for children aged one to two years and 30 to 35 per cent of calories for children between two to three years of age.
Do note that if your child is under two years old, fat restriction is not recommended as he is still
growing rapidly and requires more energy to fuel his growth. However, overeating can lead to obesity.
Calcium helps to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Goh recommends 400mg of calcium for babies from six to 12 months and 500mg for children one to three years. Some of the calcium-rich food sources include dairy products (milk/cheese/ yoghurt), tofu, anchovies, green leafy vegetables, soya bean milk and calcium-enriched cereal. Excessive calcium intake usually in the form of a supplement can lead to kidney stones.
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