Food provides energy Food supplies children with the nutrients necessary to help them grow. From birth through childhood, however, the most important purpose of food lies in supporting growth. Food is also important for a child's socialization. Mealtime brings people together and throughout history, eating has been an important part of human celebrations. Normal relationship with food and eating is an important social skill for children.
There are several major stages in the body's use of the food consumed:
The foods consumed provide the nutrients that are essential for life. Most nutrients cannot be made in our body, therefore we need to have them in our diet. Essential nutrients:
Nutrients are so important that in most countries, official government agencies specify how much of each essential nutrient is necessary at different life stages.
It is important for parents to understand the nutrients in various foods so that they can ensure their children consume a balanced diet. When the body is deprived of certain nutrients for lengthy periods of time, nutritional deficiencies may result. Symptoms of deficiency vary depending on which nutrient is missing. When vitamin D or calcium is missing, for example, rickets can result. Rickets is a deficiency disease that affects the formation of the bones.
Most deficiencies are reversible: supplementation of the right nutrients can relieve the symptoms. However, in extreme cases where nutrients are not supplied for a very long time, damage can be permanent.
Providing children with a balanced diet – with all essential nutrients included – is a major responsibility of their parents.
A Balanced Diet More than 40 nutrients help our bodies perform various functions and support the growth and development of children. These nutrients can be conveniently divided into three categories:
A balanced diet supplies a healthy combination of these types of nutrients. When a child regularly consumes a variety of foods, the body is likely to get all the nutrients it needs. By contrast, when certain foods are regularly refused, essential nutrients may become deficient.
How to ensure an appropriate diet? A food pyramid is an excellent way to judge how much of a particular food your child should eat to have a balanced diet.
A food pyramid A food pyramid is a graphic representation showing types and amounts of food that a healthy human body needs. A food pyramid can be useful for parents in deciding what kind of foods to give their children and in what daily amounts. Some foods shown in a food pyramid should be offered in generous amounts, others should be limited in quantity.
Parents should provide children with a balanced diet to support growth and development throughout the 'growing years'.