Each stage of life has its peculiarities and needs to which you must adapt your diet. Childhood is characterized by being the stage where there is the greatest physical growth and psychomotor development , which means that food must not only provide energy to maintain vital functions, but must meet greater needs related to growth and maturation.
Rosa María Marín, nutritionist at the Nemomarlin Sant Cugat Infant School (Barcelona), has been professionally dedicated to child nutrition for many years. “Many families have already entrusted me with nutritional aspects in the first months of their children’s lives. Without a doubt, I have been able to verify that, although each child is a world, there are many factors common to all that make the difference between good and poor nutrition. The process of learning eating habits is especially important, in addition to facilitating good nutritional status and optimal growth, it can help consolidate the acquisition of healthy habits for adulthood. ”
This should be, broadly speaking, the feeding of a child from 0 to 3 years old, according to this expert:
At the beginning, the energy and nutritional needs are covered by breastfeeding exclusively (or in the case that is not possible by adapted milk) until 6 months, and from then on it is necessary to gradually incorporate new foods in adequate amounts. , also adapting to the development and interest of the child.
The child from birth to 3 years old learns to suck, taste, chew, swallow and manipulate food and also to discover different smells, tastes and textures, so that little by little it is incorporated into the family diet. The different environments where the child eats (at home, at the grandparents’ house, in the nursery school, etc.) must be the ideal framework to transmit a series of habits, such as the use of cutlery, basic hygiene habits and polite behavior at the table.
Food provides spaces for communication, since it allows physical, visual and auditory contact with the mother, father or attachment figure (the tutor in the nursery school). Meals should be spaces of contact, relationship and affection.
They must be empowered so that a good relationship is generated around food. The patience and time they spend are essential . Likewise, listening to what the child says or expresses in a non-verbal way to respect his decisions (if he does not want to eat more or if he wants to go slower, etc.) is very important. As the creature grows, it will have more capabilities and will be able to experiment with food. The adult’s attitude in this exploration should be one of confidence and encouragement at all times.
Better foods for the little ones
The breast milk is the best food for the baby and both the World Health Organization (WHO) as the Fund of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months life span of the child (in the event that maternal breastfeeding is not possible, adapted milk can be chosen). From this point on it will be necessary to gradually add new foods to facilitate proper development.
The incorporation of new foods will have to be done gradually, slowly and in small quantities, respecting an interval of some days (between 3 and 5 days, for example) for each new food and observing how it is tolerated. Children acquire manual skills to feed themselves, drink from a glass or a cup with both hands and eat the same as the rest of the family, with some small adaptations, such as cutting food into small portions and allow them to pick up food with their fingers, prick it with a fork or eat it with a spoon. It is preferable to have a receptive and tolerant attitude before the possible rejection of food by the child, since a respectful and non-confrontational accompaniment guarantees that these episodes are transitory.
What if my child doesn’t eat, or eats badly?
Concern for the child who does not eat is common among fathers and mothers. However, the problem of inappetence is often a problem of balance between what a child eats and what his family (mother, father, grandparents …) expects him to eat . But it is the child, ultimately, who decides whether or not he wants to eat and how much, since he is able to self-regulate his intake according to his needs (except in situations of illness, where the specific recommendations of the pediatric team will be convenient). ).
Keep in mind that not all children eat the same amount of food, and therefore it is not good to compare them. Each boy or girl has different needs that, in addition, vary over time. For example, many children, by the year, eat the same amount or less than when they were 9 months old, since growth during the second year of life is less than in the first year, a period in which babies grow faster than at no other time in his life. And also because eating, for example, crushed vegetables together with meat or fish, is not the same as having to chew such food.
How to prepare the menus?
The adequate feeding of the child from one year of age and up to 3 years will be based on a varied, sufficient and balanced food proposal. In preparing the menus it is important to take into account both nutritional aspects (number of food groups, frequency of use of different foods, etc.) and sensorial aspects (smells, colors, textures, flavors …), providing a quality food and enhancing the variety. It is important to incorporate seasonal, local and local food, as well as organic products, such as pasta and legumes.
To promote the identification, discovery and progressive acceptance of different foods and dishes, the child must be educated in the pleasure of eating in moderation. Sugar, honey and sweeteners should not be added to foods for infants and children. It is convenient to reduce the salt in the preparation of dishes. From 6 months you can introduce gluten foods, also from the sixth month it is necessary to offer water to the child, avoiding juices and other sugary drinks. Cow’s milk will be offered from 12 months. In the mid-morning snack and / or breakfast, it is necessary that the food and preparations are adapted to the age of the child, and are preferred to fresh fruit, plain yogurt and bread (bread with oil, bread with tomato and oil, small cheese snacks, etc.), along with the water.