Many times, parents, especially young mothers are faced with this question when they realize that their little child is gradually growing older.
Having breastfed them exclusively for 6 months (or beyond as the mother wishes to), mothers would want to introduce new types of simple meals.
The reason is that the child's dietary requirements would increase, quantity-wise, above that which breast milk alone provides. Also, to support them in their crucial physical growth and development phase.
Infants less than 6 months are most vulnerable to diseases and malnutrition, which could, unfortunately, result in permanent deformation or even death.
This is and many more reasons are why what they eat at that stage of life is of a serious health concern and consideration.
Here in this article, we will be seeing what your child should eat or should be eating, alongside in what quantity.
Food groups and recommended serving sizes for children.
Foods are categorized into basic groups based on their nutritional, functional and physical properties for easier and direct identification.
The groupings are not essentially done according to the classes of foods that we readily know. Which are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins and water. Rather, other conditions are conditions in the categorization.
However, these standard daily requirements are too much to be eaten up all at once.
Hence, using portions, we can distribute the servings across the day’s meal and still achieve the daily nutrient and energy requirements.
An increased understanding of the group is required for you to know what is best for your child. Let us learn them.
Vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits naturally are sources of energy, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, vitamins (including vitamin A, vitamin C and folate) and minerals (like iron, potassium and magnesium).
Starchy root vegetables (e.g, potatoes, cocoyam, yam, kūmara and taro etc) are major sources of carbohydrates globally.
Aside from providing many nutrients, most vegetables and fruit supply less energy compared to other foods, and increase satiety (feeling of abdominal fullness while eating). This in turn may help people who consume more vegetables and fruits maintain a healthy weight.
In order to absorb a wide range of nutrients from these types of food, it is important to eat many different types of vegetables and fruit every day.
Colour is a good guide to ensuring variety with vegetables and fruit, which are often classified as
Green (e.g, broccoli, spinach, kiwifruit),
Yellow/orange (e.g, carrots, pumpkin, mandarins),
Red (e.g, tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries),
Blue/ purple (e.g, beetroot, eggplant, plums), or
Brown/white (e.g, onions, potatoes, bananas).
These colours indicate varying levels of protective compounds in vegetables and fruit.
Cereals and Bread
The bread and cereals food group include all bread, cereals, rice, pasta and foods made from whole grains.
Bread and cereals chiefly provide energy, carbohydrate, dietary fibre (when made with whole grain), protein and B vitamins (except B12).
What is ‘whole grain’?
There is no widely accepted definition of the term whole grain. It generally means that the entire grain seed or kernel is intact before meal processing.
Wholegrain is made up of the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and germ provide dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. The endosperm provides carbohydrates and some protein.
Wholegrain foods include: whole wheat, whole-wheat flour, wheat flakes, bulgur wheat, whole and rolled oats, oatmeal, oat flakes, brown rice, whole rye and rye flour, whole barley and popcorn (Cummings and Stephen 2007).
Refined grains have had most or all of the bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm, so they provide substantially fewer nutrients and less fibre to the body.
Refined cereals may include white bread, cakes, muffins, sweet or savoury biscuits, pasta, white rice and refined grain breakfast cereals.
Conclusively, we should aim to increase the proportion of bread and cereals that are whole grain as children get older. Note that older children and young people, particularly those who are highly active, will need more servings of bread and cereals to meet their energy requirements.
Milk and milk products
Milk and milk products contain energy, protein, fats, vitamins (riboflavin, B12, A) and minerals (calcium, iodine, phosphorus, zinc).
They are usually very essential for children and young people, to ensure optimal bone health and growth. Reduced or low-fat milk and milk products are the best choices because these foods include less saturated fat, and often more protein and calcium than high-fat alternatives.
All types of milk and milk products such as yoghurt and cheese from all animal sources (like cow, goat, and buffalo) are included in this food group.
Plant-based milk alternatives, such as soy, coconut, tigernut, oats milk, and rice milk fortified with calcium and other nutrients, also belong to this food group. Breast milk is included for children still being breastfed.
See Table 1 for more information on recommended intakes of milk and milk products, including descriptions of serving sizes.
Legumes, nuts and seeds*
This food group includes
Protein-rich foods such as eggs, legumes, nuts* and seeds.
Lean meat, poultry and fish where needed should be preferred.
This food category readily provides energy, protein, fats, carbohydrate (especially from legumes), vitamins (B12, niacin, thiamin) and minerals (iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus).
The fats in the meat (red meat) are oftentimes saturated fats except in lean meats. Seafood, nuts, and seeds provide more unsaturated fats than the rest of the group.
While legumes, nuts and seeds also provide fibres, energy, fats, and many important vitamins and minerals, they also add a big variety to the diet.
Processed animal meats (e.g, luncheon, salami, ham, bacon and sausages) are usually high in saturated fat and/or salt, and have also been linked to bowel cancer in adults. Cut down the intake of processed meats. (World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research 2007, 2011).
* Do not give small, hard foods such as whole nuts and large seeds until children are at least five years old to reduce the risk of choking.