What is a balanced diet for kids?

Aug 23, 2019

Introduction
 

Most of the parents struggle so hard to foster healthy eating patterns among their children as many factors could have influence and change the way how children take their meal. Children start to learn about food when they change from milk formula to a variety of foods. Therefore, healthy eating practices should be instilled during young age as biological, social, and environmental factors will influence your children food preferences, which later will shape your children’s food choices and diet quality [1,2].

Parents influence remain the most critical factors and serve as a role model in children’s diet. As a parent, you could positively or negatively affect your children’s diet. It is never too late to start learning about healthy eating. Parents are urged to start by learning and following simple guides such as Malaysian Food Pyramid for daily food intake. At the same time, ensure the food intake is in balance, moderation, and variety. These healthy practices would be exposed to children.

Besides as a role model, parents may teach their children about “Healthy Eating Plate”. It should consist of half a plate of vegetables and fruits, a quarter plate of wholegrain and cereals, and a quarter plate of protein and legumes. Parents shall always encourage children to have a balanced and varied diet, following the portion size as in “Healthy Plate” so that they do not overtake proteins and cereals over vegetables and fruits.  Keep reminding your children to drink enough water every day and avoid taking sugary drinks and soft drinks. Choose meals that cooked in a healthier way for your children such as steamed, braised, baked, boiled, or grilled foods rather than deep-fried and deeply marinated foods such as fast food and processed food which are high in fat, sugar or salt content [2].

Also, parents shall observe how their children take their meals and correct them before they turn to picky eaters. An unhealthy diet and picky eaters can cause indigestion, hard stools, stunted growth, overweight, and weak immunity. Not just physical influences, picky eaters are also found to associate with the development of mental illness such as anxiety and depression[3]. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for parents to teach and guide their children to practice healthy eating diet since they were young.

Moreover, parents shall pay attention to ensure their children having a balanced microflora in their body as well. Our body is the home to trillions of microorganisms which mostly reside along our gastrointestinal tract, and if the harmful bacteria outnumber good bacteria, can give rise to many health problems including poor digestion, weak immune system, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, and the development of obesity and diabetes [4].

Hence, children need probiotics, the friendly bacteria to help for supporting a normal, healthy growth and development. In fact, not only children, all of us need probiotic.

Probiotic helps in overall children growth:

1. Improve growth
A systemic review included a total of 2757 children to find out whether probiotic intake has anything to do with children growth[5]. It revealed that probiotic balanced among children positively improves children growth (in term of height and weight), especially those under-nourished children.

2. Improve digestive system
Probiotic plays a vital role in our digestive system. Tremendous researches have shown that probiotic helps to improve our intestinal flora balance and aid in digestion and improve nutrient absorption. Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 is a friendly bacteria that help improve beneficial intestinal microflora while Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5 has been proven to help in lactose digestion and reduce lactose intolerance symptoms. When taken with prebiotic such as inulin, it gets fermented by the friendly bacteria, which then triggers peristalsis and promotes the movement of feces through the colon. It is beneficial for children with poor digestion and hard stools.

3. Enhance the immune system of children
Gut microflora is closely linked to our immune system due to our intestines houses the biggest part of immune cells than the other parts of our body. Probiotic not only works for digestion, but also “crosstalk” with other cells involved in the immune system. The failure to communicate could trigger immune dysfunction and bring out many health problems.

Intake of probiotics helps to boost children’s immune system by increasing the production of antibody (immunoglobulin A), and the phagocytic activity of white blood cells[6]. With an intake of prebiotic together, were also found to have lesser number of sick days than other children that do not consume probiotics.

4. Strengthen bone health
Prebiotic is the food to probiotic. Prebiotic, when taken together with probiotic, can provide synergistic health benefits. Prebiotic such as inulin and oligofructose, besides help to stimulate the friendly bacteria growth in the gut, it also can help to boost bone health by increasing the absorption of mineral calcium from their dietary intake[7].

Find out more on our children supplements.

References
 
  1. Birch, D.L., Savage, J. S., and Ventura, A., 2009. Influences on the Development of Children’s Eating Behaviours: From Infancy to Adolescence. Can J Diet Pract Res., 68(1): s1–s56
  2. Positive Parent Support, 2019. Micronutrient Deficiencies: What Parents Should Know & Can Do. Retrieved from https://mypositiveparenting.org/2019/07/08/
    micronutrient-deficiencies-what-parents-should-know-can-do
  3. Zucker, N., et.al., 2015. Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers With Selective Eating. Pediatrics., 136(3):e582-590
  4. Cianci, R., Pagliari, D., Piccirillo, C.A., Fritz, J. H., and Gambassi, G., 2018. The Microbiota and Immune System Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Mediators of Inflammation, Article ID 2912539, 3 pages
  5. Onubi, O.J., Poobalan, A.S., Dineen, B., Marais, D., and McNeill, G., 2015. Effects of probiotics on child growth: a systematic review. J Health Popul Nutr., 34:8. 15 pages
  6. Fukushima, Y., Kawata, Y., Hara, H., Terada, A., & Mitsuoka, T. (1998). Effect of a probiotic formula on intestinal immunoglobulin A production in healthy children. International journal of food microbiology, 42(1), 39-44.
  7. Coudray, C., Bellanger, J., Castiglia-Delavaud, C., Remesy, C., Vermorel, M., & Rayssignuier, Y. (1997). Effect of soluble or partly soluble dietary fibres supplementation on absorption and balance of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc in healthy young men. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51(6), 375-380.