Feeding growing children: The mission impossible?

  • By Team TDO

Objective of the diet plan

Children need a balanced nutritious diet containing all essential nutrients. The diet should have adequate proportion and balance of body-building proteins, energy-giving carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, iodine, and zinc.


The diet becomes balanced with a mixture of cereals like wheat or rice, dals, legumes, fresh green vegetables, fruits, milk and milk products. The non-vegetarian diet may include eggs, fish, and poultry products.


Calories are a measure of energy required for growth and physical activity. Carbohydrates and fats are main source of energy to the body. A growing baby usually needs 120 calories per kg body weight per day. At one year, healthy infants need 1000 calories per day and thereafter additional 100 calories for every year of age.


Main source of carbohydrates are cereals (wheat, rice, bajra, etc.) and refined sugars. Cereals are good source of energy and fiber in diet. Tuberous vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beet root are good source of complex carbohydrates. Fruits are excellent source of glucose, fructose, sucrose, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant agents.


Proteins provide amino acids, building blocks of the body. A child of one year needs 15 g of proteins and thereafter increases up to 20-25 g at 5 years. Animal proteins (eggs, milk and milk products, meat, fish, etc.) are of very high quality. Proteins of vegetable sources are of relatively poor quality. However, judicious mixture of cereals, dals and vegetables along with milk and milk products become good quality protein diet of vegetarian origin.


Fats are derived either from animal (butter, ghee) or plant sources (vegetable, oils) and provide rich source of energy. Children need extra intake of fat to sustain their growth and activity. Fats are high source of fat soluble vitamins. However, excessive intake of fat may lead to obesity and should be avoided in case of family history of obesity.

Minerals and trace elements:

Calcium is required for formation of bones and teeth. Milks and milk products are excellent sources of calcium. Iron is required for formation of the blood component hemoglobin. Iron deficiency may lead to poor growth in children. Dietary sources of iron are meat, egg yolk, green vegetables, lentils, and fruits. Iodine is an essential trace element required for production of thyroid hormones. Common salts fortified with iodine must be used in diet. Zinc deficiency may cause poor weight gain and frequent infections. Food rich in zinc are wheat, nuts, cheese, grains and meat products.


Vitamins are required for maintenance of good health. Vitamins should be taken in recommended daily amount by the doctor (child specialist).

Hazards of junk food:

Excessive intake of junk foods (soft drinks, potato chips, French fries, chocolates, pizzas etc) should be avoided as consumption of these foods may lead to over-weight and obesity. Soft drinks provide empty calories without any essential nutrients. Excessive intake of soft drinks may lead to loss of appetite, irritability, and restlessness.

Take home message:

  1. Provide the child with mashed fruits and homemade soft foods like khichdi from 6 months onwards.
  2. Children need ghee, butter as well as spices in their foods but in moderate amount.
  3. Children should be encouraged to eat on their own.
  4. Children should not be sent to school on an empty stomach.
  5. Provide children with healthy eating choices. Parents must set right example of healthy food habits.