By school age, it is when eating habits start to be developed, therefore, it is important to make children aware of what a balanced and healthy diet is. The basic recommendations are to provide them with foods from each group of nutrients and to control the intake of fat caused by excessive consumption of pastries that cause high cholesterol levels among school pupils.
Nutrition and children
Healthy nutrition for children is based on the same principles as that of an adult. At any age, the body needs vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats to function properly. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients depending on their age.
It is important that the parents are aware of the importance of nutrition in the growth of their children and try to bring them up on a healthy diet, starting from a very early age. Children follow their parents’ example in nutrition (overweight is common in children with obese parents). This doesn’t mean that they never eat a pizza, a hamburger, sweets or chocolates, but it should be reduced to certain occasions.
In particular, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting the consumption of foods and drinks with a high sugar content such as soft drinks, sweets… etc. and substituting these sweet snacks with pieces of fruits and raw vegetables.
Vitamins for growing children
Due to the high energy consumption of children during the period of growth and intellectual and physical development, their nutritional needs are increased compared to those of an adult.
So, at an early age, the body has a particular need for high biological value protein, prebiotic fibre and certain vitamins and minerals related to growth and the nervous system. These are Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamins C, D, B1 and B6.
In growth age and physiological changes as in childhood, the intake of vitamins B1 (thiamine), B6, B12 are key for the energy and nervous system metabolism. Likewise, vitamin B12 is involved in the production of red blood cells, and along with folic acid (B9) and pantothenic acid (B5), reduces fatigue and tiredness.
On the other hand, vitamin D is necessary for the normal development of bones and the normal functioning of the immune system in children. Vitamin C participates in the normal formation of collagen in bones and teeth.
Royal jelly is a natural active ingredient from bees and is considered one of the richest foods in nutrients. Its contribution of unsaturated fatty acids, which are involved in energy processes, can help children and adolescents especially during demanding periods such as the return to school and routine.
Omegas for children
Some omegas from vegetable oils such as Omega 3 (ALA) or Omega 6 (GLA) may also be included in dietary supplementation with special formulations for children.
In fact, Omegas from Flaxseeds are mainly type 3, being one of the natural sources with the highest Omega 3 content. Flaxseed oil helps normal cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function.
Other Omegas essential to the functioning of the body are Omega 6, and Borage seed oil represents one of the highest vegetable sources of Omega 6-GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). Borage omegas play a role in the normal maintenance of the immune system.
Guidelines for a healthy diet in children
- Protein. It is found in fish, lean beef and poultry, eggs, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommendations has stated that children should eat about 400 grams of fruits and vegetables a day. This would be, in children aged 1 to 2 years, about three portions per day, and in those above 2 years of age, about five portions per day. While children above 4 years, as well as teenagers, should take as much fruits and vegetables as possible.
- Grains. Use whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, oats, popcorn, quinoa or brown or wild rice. Reduce the consumption of refined cereals, such as white bread, pasta and rice.
- Dairy. Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yoghurt or cheese are recommended.
- Avoid ultra-processed or packaged products and added sugars. Saturated fat-rich foods such as butter, lard, cheese or ice cream have also to be avoided.
In recent years, the nutrition of school pupils in developed countries has changed considerably. The increase in refined sugars has resulted in a decrease in the intake of cereals, vegetables and fruits. As a consequence, cases of child obesity and overweight have been increased.
When overweight is present at an early age, it is more likely to continue as an adult. Going to a dietician or nutritionist could be a good option for helping children to maintain healthy eating habits.
The day begins with breakfast
We have to remember that breakfast is the first meal of the day, since it breaks the “fasting” at night. It should provide the body with all the nutrients and energy necessary to start off the day with strength.
It is therefore recommended that children have a full breakfast every day before going to school. Avoiding breakfast and waiting until mid-morning for ‘lunch’ means that one important daily meal would be missed.
Both breakfast as well as other meals of the day should be varied, so that all the nutrients provided by the food, and required by the body, can be obtained.
Back to school and routine
Returning to school means a major change in the children’s schedules so it is normal that they feel more tired. The month when the early mornings start again, carrying the heavy backpacks and performing during all the school hours and the different activities of the day.
Sometimes, at the end of the school day, the child continues to attend extra-curricular classes or to do a lot of physical activity. This is why proper nutrition is an important factor in giving children strength and encouragement during the day. It must be taken into account that children are at a stage of rapid growth and development, and adequate nutrient intake is important for it.
In addition, they invest enormous amounts of calories in their tireless physical activity, which must be recovered through a varied and complete diet, in order to maintain their proper growth and energy levels and memory.