Toddler nutrition 101: Back to the basics!

Toddler nutrition 101: Back to the basics!

If only children came with a user manual, life would be so much simpler for parents!

As the sole decision maker for their well-being, parents are faced with the gargantuan task of ‘doing right by their child’. And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, children change their preferences, likes, dislikes and have you back at ground zero. The biggest battles in most households are fought around the table.

Celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija and author of ‘Eat.Delete.Junior’ says, ‘ Child nutrition is the most crucial ingredient in raising healthy, happy and successful future adults.’

Because proper nutrition is important for optimal growth and development, healthy eating in childhood lays a strong foundation for a lifetime of good health. Not only does right nutrition support physical growth and psychological development, it also helps prevent and overcomes illness by boosting immunity. A well-nourished body is more apt at fighting off common colds, flu and respiratory and digestive concerns. With childhood obesity being on the rise, focus on the right kind of nutrition for toddlers is the need of the hour.

Depending on age and activity levels, toddlers require 1000-1400 calories every day. The parameters of what constitutes as ‘healthy’ for little ones differs from that for adults. To understand this better, it is imperative to first understand what children need:

*Protein: Protein is the body’s building block. It is essential for formation of new cells and growth and repair of muscles, skin, internal organs, blood, hair and nails. Toddlers and children need about 1.1 gram of protein per kg of body weight every day

*Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium is essential for children to develop strong bones and teeth. It also supports heart and nerve function. Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health too as it helps the body absorb calcium

*Healthy fats: like Omega-3 play a crucial role in development of the nervous and cardiac systems of toddlers and support eye health

*Other essential nutrients: including iron, folate, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals help with the overall well-being of toddlers and kids

When one looks for solutions as to how to meet these needs, the most popular answer is MILK!

Rich in a wide spectrum of nutrients, milk is a powerhouse of high-quality protein and calcium. Whole milk is always recommended as a better option because it contains healthy fat too. Milk keeps you full, prevents overeating and helps keeps obesity at bay. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddles 1-2 years of age consume 2-3 cups of whole milk per day and children 2-5 consumer at least 2 cups every day for optimal growth and development. Because of the multitude of benefits in a cup, milk is touted as one of the unmatched sources of nutrition for children’s nutritional needs.

Having said that milk is so great for kids, the benefits of milk depend largely on its origins and quality. While milk is one of the most nutrient-rich foods in nature, it is also one of the most adulterated foods in the world – which brings parents to their next predicament – is cow milk safe for my children?

Most milk in India is sourced from dairies that follow conventional dairy practices. There are no regulations to test milk for adulterants like blotting paper, urea or sugar. The living conditions of the cows are not monitored for hygiene or contamination and there is no control on what the cow eats. The dairy industry in India is profit-driven, rendering the cows as a commodity that are treated with antibiotics and synthetic hormones to drive production, which inevitably finds its way into the milk. How then are parents to trust milk for the health of their child?

Organic milk is sourced from cows that are raised according to organic farming methods. It is milk that is free from antibiotics, synthetic hormones and chemical residues. Studies have shown that organic milk has a higher concentration of nutrients like omega-3 than regular milk that impacts the overall well-being of the body. Because organic milk is unprocessed and has no additives, it is a healthier choice over regular milk for the whole family.

At Akshayakalpa Organic farms, free-roaming cows live in natural, stress-free environments and feed on a balanced diet of organic fodder. The fodder is grown on organic soil without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers, ensuring that chemicals do not make their way into the diet of the cows – and hence never in the milk. A fully-automated milking process keeps the milk untouched by human hand. Fresh milk is cooled to 4 degrees Celsius to inhibit bacteria and keep nutrients intact. After almost 22 quality tests – including a test for antibiotics – milk is packaged and delivered fresh – making it the perfect addition to your little one’s diet.

Raksha Changappa, an award winning nutritionist of Bangalore says, “All children are picky eaters. It is a part of growing up.” Including milk in your kid’s diet may not be child’s play. With many flavoured and attractive ‘children’s drinks’ with the promise of nutrition available in the market, it is wise to remember that water and milk are still the best beverage options. Fruit shakes and fruit yogurts are an exciting way to encourage children to consume milk. Organic milk can also be added to curries, soups and desserts to add variety to your child’s plate.

As parents, it is easy to get caught up in trying to source the best nutrition for your child and feeling like you’re not doing enough. Like Ms. Makhija says, ‘Children are like clay, if you can teach them good food habits when they are young, they are not going to need doctors and nutritionists when they grow up. There should be a healthy balance between healthy food and occasional treats.’

Don’t panic if you feel like your child is not meeting their nutritional needs every single day. Children are resilient and as long as they have regular access to nutritious meals and milk, in the long run their requirements will balance out.