Covid-19’s second wave is back in Pakistan and parents are again dealing with kids at home with compromised routine. Among various other issues, maintaining healthy nutrition of children is a major challenge that parents are facing. The disturbed routine, discipline, and staying indoors for elongated time is stressful for children and that is leading them to a virtual escape. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons their diets are suffering as well. Good Nutrition is essential for health especially in the pandemic which requires strong immune system to fight the virus. The sedentary lifestyle at home is leading to consumption of unhealthy processed food and snacks to fill in the gaps. Mothers are already struggling with additional responsibility of feeding kids during excess time. This article presents several WHO recommended tips for parents to keep kids’ nutrition and diet on track during lockdown.
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Essential nutrition for Children
It is one of the foremost responsibility of parents to learn and develop healthy eating habits in children. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends several food groups that are essential in formulating a balanced diet for children. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein foods. Among these food groups, whole and fresh foods should be selected. Whole grains, dairy and meats preferably home cooked should be given preference. As for mealtime, children should have three mealtimes and up to 3 snack times based on diet and needs. Apart from foods, healthy liquid intake in form of fresh juice, water and milk is necessary as well. Defining the food groups is relatively easy and covered in most of the daily diets of Pakistani families. However, parents need to be aware of foods to avoid during this lockdown in order to maintain a healthy routine for children.
Foods Children should avoid during Covid-19 break
There is a long list of unhealthy snacks and meals that children love to indulge in. Given the current circumstances, most parents give in to fill in the gap. Some of the common food groups to avoid include the following:
Sugar and Sugar Substitutes: Try to avoid foods with added sugar or sugar substitutes. Sweets, candy and chocolates are obvious foods with sugar excess. However, foods that have sucrose, glucose-fructose, white or brown sugar and syrups, are equally unhealthy when regularly taken in diet. WHO recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar intake per day which can come from even natural whole foods. Even several low fat foods have high count of sugar. Remember that children are no more spending time outside home, playing or being physically active. Therefore, feeding them sugar and sugar substitutes lead to excess consumption of sugar. This is applicable when they are also taking fruits with natural sugar in diet. Foods like pancake syrups, chocolate spreads, sugared malt or chocolate drinks are adding up to unhealthy carbs in their bodies. Such food intakes should be limited.
Sweetened Juices instead of Water: While during normal routine, canned juices or sweetened shakes and fruit juices were a healthy choice, try to switch to plain water and unsweetened juice during the quarantine. The sedentary lifestyle requires additional intake of fiber. So instead of fruit juices, try to offer fresh whole fruits which is a great source of fiber and vitamins.
Excess Fat Intake: With normal activity levels, healthy fats are a great source of energy especially in form of butter, whole milk, meat and frozen products. A child’s body should get no more than 30% of his energy from fat and that too healthy fats. Cut down massively on processed and frozen products like patties, nuggets and sausages as well as fried stuff which is a major demand from children. Stick to good fats like butter, ghee, meat fat, whole milk or fresh cream, but all in moderation. If you are making meat, go for skinless and grilled recipes. Instead of French fries, try baked or grilled wedges and fries and go for homemade nuggets or patties to avoid trans-fat and excess of saturated fat.
Sodium: Sodium is an excellent source of keeping the body hydrated, and nerves, muscles functional. However, with no activity or exercise, excess sodium can lead to obesity and other heart related diseases in older age. Gradually reduce sodium intake in children’ diet by cutting down on processed food and offer food that is low in sodium. According to National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicines (NASEM), the daily intake of sodium for children between 1-14 years of age should range between 800-1500 mg which is less than a tablespoon of salt. specifically, in times of lockdown, keeping track of kids’ nutrition is significant factor to reduce negative impact of lockdown on their health.
Large Portions of Meal: The increased screen time of children during the lockdown is not only giving parents a hard time related to child’s mental health and physique but also their appetite and inattention in consumption of food. The inactive lifestyle makes children either less hungry or consume large portions of food without realizing. Stick to three meals a day routine if your child feels less hungry with regular meal sizes. Do not give them large portions to eat during snack time or even mealtime. Let them ask for food if they feel hungry and do not try to cover up for small intake of food at one time with large meal portions on another time.
Refined Fibers: Fibers are a great source of energy which contributes towards a healthy gut and digestive system. Moreover, high fiber intake also reduces overeating in form of unhealthy snacking or large meal portions. Instead of refined fibers which include white pasta, rice or bread, try to offer meals with whole grains like oats, barley, brown pasta, whole-wheat bread and chapattis, vegetables, fruits, boiled or steamed potatoes and pulses.
Mothers are already burdened with additional chores due to online schools and work-from-home. However, keeping a chart of essential and harmful food groups can help them in designing new diet plans for their families. This will also help in keeping kids’ nutrition on track in lockdown. Establishing a nutritional diet today is a necessity to keep children healthy while building their immune systems and avoiding development of health issues.
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