Monday | 25 May | 2020
By Lea Brink
Feeding in a child’s first few years is of critical importance and it is even more important in this time of Covid-19 that parents feed their young children correctly.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says proper nutrition is particularly important in the first two years of a child’s life. “It helps to ensure healthy growth, strengthens their immune system and improves their cognitive development. It also decreases their risk of becoming overweight or obese, falling ill with infectious diseases or developing chronic illnesses later in life.”
This world body recommends that for the first six months of your child’s life you breastfeed him/her exclusively, and that you continue breastfeeding your child for the first two years of his/her life.
This must be supplemented after six months with a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods so that they receive all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and antioxidants they need. The United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, maintains that after six months children should receive at least four kinds of good food per day, which includes fruit, vegetables, grains foods, legumes, nuts, animal and dairy products and staple foods such as rice. “They must also take in fluids, such as breastmilk and/or purified water, to keep them hydrated. Because their tummies are small, they must eat regularly and the kinds of food and the regularity can with time be built up slowly.”
Between six and eight months children should be fed two to three times per day with half a cup of soft food at every mealtime. Prepare simple, soft porridges and add fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk or milk powder as well as cooked meat. If fresh produce isn’t available, frozen or canned food with a low sugar and salt content can be used. Food from the family meal can be mashed and also fed with a clean spoon.
Between nine and 11 months you can feed your children three to four time per day with one cup of food at every mealtime. Children now start to chew food and can therefore eat food cut up in small pieces. One again food from the family meal is a good option.
Between 12 and 24 months children can eat family food and feed themselves from their plates. They should receive a three quarter to a full cup of food three to four times per day at every mealtime.
The WHO recommends that apart from fruit and vegetables and foods of animal origin, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts (for protein) and full-grain foods (such as unprocessed mealies, grain and oatmeal) can also be considered.
Toddlers between two and three need one cup of fruit per day, as well as a cup of raw or cooked vegetables. Children between four and 13 need 1.5 cups of fruit as well as raw of cooked vegetables.
Unicef recommends that to keep children going during the day, add one or two healthy snacks between meals and a lot of purified water. Choose snacks such as fruit and vegetables that are soft or cut into pieces and suitable for the child’s age. Bananas are also a good option, depending on its availabiltiy.
Avoid fizzy cooldrinks and sweet and savoury snacks. They contain high levels of salt, sugar, fats and chemicals and can cause permanent harm to your children’s teeth and healthy development.
World Health Organisation, http://www.emro.who.int/nutrition/nutrition-infocus/feeding-babies-and-young-children-during-the-covid-19-outbreak.html.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.