Children of three to five years old, are still growing. It’s a time of rapid development.
We need to make sure that they have good nutrition all the time.
Two key principles that parents and caregivers need to follow are: variety and frequency – according to dietician Marie de Beer.
Milk is an essential component of a toddler's diet. It contains calcium and vitamin D, which aid in the development of strong bones.
A toddler’s daily calcium intake should be 700 milligrams and 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D (which aids calcium absorption).
This calcium requirement is met if children consume the recommended two servings of dairy foods per day.
It’s crucial that children eat frequently throughout the day because they have small stomachs and can’t consume big meals. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a variety of other foods is recommended. Children need at least two glasses of milk each day. This can be in the form of cheese or yoghurt to make sure they obtain their daily dairy requirement.
According to WHO the typical diet of three – five years is not very diverse. More than 40% of the daily energy intake do not consume their vegetables. Sugar sweetened beverages are the main energy source in children.
Dietary habits are formed at a young age and maintained later in life with tracking over time, according to research published in the “National Library of Medicines”.
Childhood eating habits persist, with consequences such as fussiness and a lack of dietary variety, or high responsiveness to food cues and an increased risk of obesity.
Although it is difficult to directly modify eating habits and child weight, parental feeding practices may be a good target for interventions to prevent unhealthy eating patterns and the development of excess weight in children.
Implications of high sugar intake
South African children face a double burden of malnutrition, according to Dr Lelo Latakgomo.
Undernutrition and overnutrition have an impact on how children develop mentally and physically. “It is critical that we provide our children with adequate nutrition so that they can thrive and grow.”
She says it’s crucial to be cautious of sugar-sweetened beverages when it comes to how children consume sugar as it’s well known that they are associated with a child’s weight.
This is a sentiment shared by dietician De Beer as “added sugars” are not just cool drinks; they could be flavoured milk or anything with added sugar. “We call the added sugar in these products empty energy.”
De Beer says there are various types of sugar, such as naturally occurring sugars or intrinsic sugars such as fructose in fruits and vegetables and lactose in milk and dairy products.
“If the food is colourful and diverse, a child is more likely to eat it and to get all of the nutrients they require.” While milk is beneficial to a child’s development, water is equally important. “Cut them and get the food excited about their food,” Latakgomo says.
Sugar supplies the same amount of calories as any carbohydrates, it’s not going to make them stunted but since it’s empty energy they will gain fat mass and not protein, says De Beer.
Lactose is an important component of our diet and helps with growth.