Little children’s diet

Healthy eating habits in growing children will ensure that they grow into strong adults

Child with mother buying fruitsA nutritious diet is of great importance in your child’s health management. Most children today skip meals, instead of skipping ropes, opt for munching wafers rather than crunching carrots and dip into colas rather than dipping into the pool. Children, especially between the age group of 2-5 years, are usually fussy and picky eaters. But don’t worry; all you got to do is follow the five basic healthy-kid rules.

Healthy-kid rule no. 1

Parents influence their children a lot; and so should be a positive role model. One of the best ways that you, as a parent, can teach good eating habits to your children is by setting good examples in your own eating behaviour. For example, if children are to be encouraged to reduce or eliminate sweets or fried foods, then you should make similar adjustments in your diet. If you want your child to drink milk, you got to drink it too. It’s also important to remember that at no time, food should be used as a reward or punishment.

Healthy-kid rule no. 2

Allow children to explore. When children know about a food – where it grows, where you get it from and how you cook it – the more they will enjoy eating the food. Take your child for grocery shopping, in fact involve your child while you are preparing your grocery list. Another way of educating children about food is by creating an A-Z chart of healthy foods like A-apple, B-banana, and C-carrot. Whenever you take your child out to eat, teach him/her how to select healthy options from the menu. For example say “Yes” to grilled sandwich and “No” to fries.

Healthy-kid rule no. 3

Always remember, that younger children are restless. Their likes and dislikes will keep varying. The way food is presented can really affect your child’s appetite. The meals served to them should be simple, without strong masalas [mildly flavoured] and not too cold or hot. Try making the meals colourful and serve them attractively. The foods that are disliked by children can be presented [read camouflaged] along with foods that are more accepted. Let me tell you how –

  • Sip it! If your child does not like milk, add milk instead of water in the dough for preparing rotis or parathas or make preparations like porridges [with wheat flour, oats or rawa], fruit smoothies and flavoured soy milk.
  • Hide it! If your child does not like vegetables, use vegetable puree [like palak, beetroot, carrot] to make an appealing rainbow paratha. Boiled and mashed sprouts/vegetables can be added as fillings in rotis and served as frankies. Another way to include vegetables is by mixing them with pasta. For example macaroni mixed with spinach and cheese.
  • Create it! If your child does not like fruits, prepare dishes like fruit custard, milkshake and fruit jelly. You can also try serving different fruit pieces on a tooth pick. Fruits can also be served as funny faces. For example, cherries as eyes, a strawberry as nose and a banana slice as mouth.
  • Cut it! Even at the table, small pieces of food called “Finger Foods” can be served that a child can handle himself – like boiled egg, small shredded pieces of chicken, vegetable cutlets, rolls and sandwiches cut into small triangular pieces or circles.

Healthy-kid rule no. 4

Try using special chairs for children along with unbreakable bowls and cutlery that look alluring, but at the same time are safe and blunt enough to help the child eat independently. One of the best techniques to reduce feeding problems is by teaching your child to feed himself as early as possible. Never force-feed your child. A common mistake made by most mothers is giving their child too much attention at meal times. Leave them, allow them to drop food and make a mess out of their clothes. Simply allow them to enjoy their meal.

Healthy-kid rule no. 5

The last rule for healthy eating in children is meal timings. Children should be discouraged to eat while watching T.V or reading books. Children have a small appetite and a short span of attention. Offer them to eat something every three hours [providing an average of total 1200-1600 calories in the entire day]. No snack should be given close to meal timings. Although, your child is not eating a three-meal diet, as long as your child is growing normally and is maintaining good energy levels, you don’t need to worry about it much.

Is your preschooler a smart snacker?

Some healthy snack options for your child’s tiffin are mini rava idlis, cheese sandwich, small pieces of groundnut chikki, mini mix-vegetable soy cutlets, small besan/soy flour ladoos, potato poha, moong dal dhoklas, vegetable pancakes, mix vegetable. or whole chana kababs, French toast, tiny pizza’s [with low-fat cheese] and cup cakes/muffins.

Healthy pre-schoolers diet signal

AVOID: Candy, cookies, chewing gum, fried snacks, ice-cream, soft drinks, chips, sugar coated breakfast cereals, salty snacks, red meats, pizza, burgers, raw vegetables and fruits that are too big in size.

GO SLOW: Dried fruits, cheese and fruit juice [with sugar].

EAT FREELY: Whole grains, pulses, sprouts, poha, bread, pasta, egg, fish, vegetables, fruits, curd/yogurt, low-fat paneer, milk [ two cups per day], lassi, soy products, raisins, and til.

Payal Ahuja
Payal Ahuja is a Mumbai-based dietician and consultant. She conducts workshops on lifestyle management and weight management programmes on TV. Ahuja is also IPC-certified auditor for ISO-9001:2000, and author of the book, Combating Childhood Obesity.


  1. your all articles are very infomative.
    please suggest weather walnuts can be given to kids of 5-10 years age. and how many.

  2. I liked ur article, this will help me a lot in increasing his appetite. My son is very choosy n i think this article can solve my problem..

  3. I liked ur article… this will help me a lot in preparing food accordingly. My son does not like milk n i shall try preparing rotis by adding milk…. thanx

  4. Please give a nutitrional guidance for Infants of 3 months and onwards…

    Other than breast feeding plus Breast milk substitutor such as Nutriklon 1, what vitamins on what doze and what duration can be given to infant.

    thank you and regards

  5. from morning to night how many times a 5 year kid should eat? My kid’s body looks white; is there any problem? My family blames me that I don’t give him proper diet and i feel very bad. Though I give him wet almonds, milk, roti with sabji daily. At school he eats school snacks and when he comes back I give him fruits. Then he sleeps and then in dinner I gived him rice with dal or roti sabji.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here