As per WHO, “Good health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
What are nutrients?
Nutrients are the components in food that must be supplied to the body in suitable amounts. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Deficiency of any of these nutrients may result in illness. Nutrients obtained from food are utilized by the body to provide energy, to support growth, maintenance and repair body’s tissues.
What is a balanced diet?
As your baby is growing, it is necessary to provide her with a balanced diet. A balanced diet is one that contains all the necessary nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in required amounts. When the diet provides for all of the baby’s requirements as well as supports her nutrient needs when she is not well, your baby is said to have a good nutritional status.
After being exclusively breast fed for 6 months, her nutritional needs increase as she enters into her 7th month. As you introduce foods, initially there are fewer meal occasions for the baby to eat food. As the baby grows, she is slowly and gradually exposed to various food groups which are easier to digest, which provide her with variety in terms of nutrients, textures and consistency. By 1 yr of age, the baby can be introduced to complex foods like whole grains, whole pulses etc.
By 2 years of age, most toddlers become fussy eaters which may lead to insufficient intake of food. Sometimes, illness and diseases also lower the ability of your baby to eat and affect her appetite. The diet of your child may also be insufficient in terms of quality and the quantity of the food that she eats.
A balanced diet, therefore, is one which contains different food groups in quantities and proportions that the needs of all the nutrients are adequately met.
Why is balanced diet important for your baby?
Infancy is a period of rapid growth in terms of her physical , cognitive growth and nutritionally balanced diet at this stage thus becomes critical. An infant doubles her birth weight by the age of five months and triples by one year. Weight gain shows a gain in muscles, organ tissues, fat content and skeletal growth. Also as the child grows, the digestive ability of your baby improves gradually and she learns to better accept the foods that you give her.
Between the ages of 2 to 5 years, your child should make a gradual transition to the family foods. A balanced diet should have the right types of foods to be eaten from various food groups, how much of the food she has eaten and how often does she eat it.
How to get the right diet for your baby?
Planning a meal involves planning of balanced diet which is colourful, attractive, appetizing, palatable, easy to prepare and digest by your baby. The following are some points that you should keep in mind, while you are preparing a balanced meal for your baby.
Nutritional adequacy: the diet that you plan for your baby should be able to meet her nutritional needs and fulfill her growing demands. It should be a combination of various food groups like energy giving foods which primarily comprise of foods rich in carbohydrates like cereals and their products, starchy roots and tubers, sugar and those rich in fats like nuts, fats and oil. You should also include body building foods like proteins which are important for your baby’s tissue building and maintenance. Your baby also needs ample amounts of vitamins and minerals for protective and regulatory functions of the body. All vegetables and fruits thus should be included in your baby’s diet.
Acceptability of the meal by your baby: while planning a balanced meal for your baby it is essential to keep in mind her likes and dislikes.The meals should have variety in colour, texture and flavor for better acceptability. If she does not like the food that you give her, she will not eat it and hence will not be able to benefit from the nutritional value it has.
Satiety for your child: The meal planned should be able to fulfill your baby’s hunger till the next meal. Including proteins, fat and dietary fibre in the form of fruits and vegetables is a good idea. Snacks can be included to the diet of your baby. Main meals are important for your baby however, good snacking habits ensure that the nutrient gap if any, is fulfilled. Initially introducing fruits and vegetables in the form of purees, mashed fruits/vegetable, smoothies, shakes etc is a good option. Gradually as the baby enters toddlerhood, introducing healthy finger foods – snacks that can be eaten unsupervised by your toddler should become a part of her diet.
Portion it right: One serving portion of the food depends on the age, gender and activity of your baby. Besides the type in terms of quality of food , the quantity of the food should also be taken care of. As your baby has a small stomach, there is only a limited serving that she can consume at a time. You should take care that you provide her with small yet frequent meals in order to fulfill her nutritional requirements.
Use food in combinations: A particular food when used alone is required in larger amount to make one serving as compared to when it is used in another foods. Moreover, including various food groups will also provide your baby with various nutritional benefits, variety in texture and taste as well.
Eating well leads to better health!
To maintain good health of your baby, giving her a diet containing adequate nutrients in correct amounts is essential. Good nutrition provides her with all the essential nutrients in appropriate balance for her good health!!
Remember, You are what you eat!!