Early childhood, which includes the preschool stage (2–5 years), is the phase of physical, emotional, and mental development and forms the foundation for the child’s future well-being. Adequate and wholesome nutrition plays a vital role during this stage. The kind of food or beverage a preschooler consumes affects his/her health.
A preschooler’s body needs nutrient-dense foods. Nutrient dense foods means foods that contain a lot of nutrients with good amount of energy. For this you need to look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Essentially a food that has a number of food groups comprised in itself.
A way to do this is by packing all the 5 food groups in your child’s daily diet. The five essential food groups:
|Grains (like rice, wheat, ragi, bread)|
|Vegetables including green leafy vegetables|
|Protein-rich foods (such as beans, eggs, seafood, poultry and other meat products)|
|Dairy products (such as milk, cheese, and yogurt)|
However, these increased nutrient needs are not met by a child who is a fussy eater, due to his/her unwillingness to consume certain food and/or lack of variety in the diet. Compared to non-fussy eaters, fussy eaters consume lesser amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, as well as protein-rich foods. This may cause a deficiency of micronutrients in their body, particularly that of vitamin A, zinc, and iron.
Remember, children have small tummies, but at this stage their nutrient needs are high. Therefore, you as a caregiver, must encourage your child to consume more nutrient-dense foods and less amounts of foods and beverages high in sugar, salt, and fat.
Use of fortified foods as part of a balanced diet can help bridge the micronutrient gap without any change in existing food habits.