by : Nadia Shahira Bt Amiruddin
Children often do not have the appetite at the start of their age. Children at the age of infants generally have the body type of being plump and fleshy. However, as they grow, their bodies become smaller and thinner. This causes stress among the parents when colleagues point out that their children are getting thin. However, parents blame the children who are not guilty by saying the children have no appetite to eat. For concerned parents, they are not so easy to give in to their children. Parents have to force them to eat in order to provide adequate nutrition for their children so that the body fit and stimulate their brain.
Parents tend to give their children fast food such as instant noodles or frozen food such as nuggets, sausages and potatoes. This is not good since this food would restrict the development of children’s brain that is developing rapidly in this early stage. This type of food obviously heightens children’s appetite for the delicious taste and solid shapes which make parents feel happy to see their children are satisfied after eating the food. However, parents tend to forget about the content found in fast food are harmful to the children’s health and can affect their growth. Being full is not enough and what is important is the content of nutrients that can affect the children’s growth and their general development.
Children often only eat a little when the time is required to eat as breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, parents can give food “in between meal” to children, such as fruits and vegetables. For example, in the morning, they eat a wholesome meal at 9am. While waiting for lunch, they can be given fruit for snacks, corn on the cob, broccoli and carrot stew with minced chicken, Milo or milk so that they continue to feel full with added nutrients. Snacking is not encouraged to be practiced with children because it would only invite to the problem of lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea among children.
Parents should refer to the food pyramid, which has been prepared as a guide to nutrition not only for adults but for children as well. According to the food pyramid, carbohydrate should be taken in a large quantity such as rice, noodles and potatoes. The content of carbohydrate taken should match the quantity of calories that a child needs. If carbohydrate is taken in large quantities, it will lead to obesity. However, we cannot ignore the importance of carbohydrates as it can provide energy to the children.
Fruits and vegetables are the second biggest serving that should be included in a child’s diet. According to the food pyramid, it can be taken within 3 to 5 servings. Fruits contain substances that are good. It does not contain cholesterol. It has natural sweetener, can reduce the risk of obesity and solve constipation problems for children. On the other hand, vegetables also have a wide range of pure vitamin and nutrients that can be used by the children themselves. Parents often complain that their children do not like to eat vegetables and fruits. This issue can be indirectly pointed to parents who did not introduce the habit of eating vegetables and fruits to their children at an early age. As we know, most of the vegetables are not very tasty. That is why, parents are inclined to introduce their children to sweets such as candy, ice cream or chocolate compared to vegetables and fruits. Parents should familiarize their children with the sweetness and goodness of fruits and vegetables but at the same time allow them to have moderate amount of junk food and sweets. Let them know that too much of those can be bad for them.
The next food pyramid is dairy products and protein such as fish, poultry and legumes. It can only be taken within 1 to 2 servings only. As we know, protein allows children to be active by facilitating chemical reactions through enzymes that protect against infection. Without protein, bone, skin and hair of children will not have structure. Parents can practice how to cook healthy meals consist of protein and legume. Apart from deep-frying, parents can use the methods of steaming, boiling, simmer, roasting and baking. They can use herbs, spices and lemons as flavor enhancers instead of salt and ‘ajinomoto’. It is best to avoid the use of seasonings available on the market.
Finally, the last one is the use of fats, oils, sugar and salt. These foods should be taken very little not only by adults but also by children at the rate of once per day. Excess intake of these substances will cause a child to be obese. Children who love fried foods; coupled with extra chicken-flavoured ingredients, will cause them to embed saturated fat in their bodies. There would be excessive amount of fat in the child’s body, which is not good. If the child rarely plays outside and opts for inactive activities that include gadgets, fat in their body will reside longer and in the end, difficult to be ridden off. For concerned parents, it is necessary to monitor the nutrition intake of their children so they are not either too fat or too skinny.
Children who are born in this world need more attention from parents. Parents cannot simply abdicate their responsibility to someone else. Although they are busy with work, parents cannot ignore nutrition needs of their children. Balanced diet is the key for children to have a well-balanced physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social quality for challenges ahead.