Making sure children receive the right nutrition once they reach school-age can be a difficult task.
The change in schedule and routines that occurs during this time, in addition to less time spent among family, makes it more difficult for parents to provide a careful supervision of their little ones’ new eating habits.
If these children do not maintain a balanced and healthy diet according to the nutrition requirements established for their age group, they may undergo nutrition deficiencies that can affect their proper growth, both physically and cognitively.
According to the 2010 National Nutrition Survey of Colombia (ENSIN, Spanish acronym), children under the age of five in this country are susceptible to considerable deficiencies in iron, zinc and vitamin A. This is why it is important to nourish their everyday diet with products that provide these nutrients. The pediatric nutritionist, Silvana Dadán, explains that in the diet of young children, it is essential to include both white and red meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables, preferably whole-wheat or fortified wheat and dairy products.
“Iron helps children to be more active and concentrated so that they can perform better in school. Zinc, and vitamins A and C help strengthen children’s immune systems, preventing them from getting sick easily. Proteins, calcium, and vitamins A and D are helpful in general as they help grow strong and healthy bones and keep children active; they are fundamental in supporting the growth and development of children during this age,” Dr. Dadán states.
Tips for maintaining a nutritious diet:
- Do not skip breakfast. About10% of children have this habit while, for school-age children, it is the most important meal of the day. A good diet should include small portions of the four basic food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, vegetables and a dairy-based beverage.
- Foods eaten in-between meals are also key for this age-group as they provide the energy that children need to make it through their school-day. Many times, however, children end up eating snacks that are not very healthy. It is a good idea to include a dairy product such as yogurt, granola bars or fruit in their snacks.
- Despite your child’s new routine, try to continue to eat some meals as a family that foster good eating habits. Take advantage of these times to explain to your child the benefits that the different food groups bring to their bodies.