As parents, we are always involved in a search for the best to offer our children, whether it be choosing daycare centers and / or schools and extracurricular activities, as well as in terms of health. That is why, from birth, we have already asked ourselves questions about the best food for our little ones.
However, this choice is further complicated by the advent of complementary feeding. What dishes should we put on our children's table? What foods are essential in a healthy meal in childhood? What would the ideal and healthy food plate for children?
To begin with, the first choice we must make is the number of meals we offer to children. Although traditionally the distribution in adults is usually done in three main meals, children should not eat less than 5 times a day, Two of these meals being lighter, the daily snacks at recess and after school.
Additionally, you should try to distribute the total calories throughout the day with a good energy intake at breakfast (around 25%), and an early dinner so as not to go to bed with a full stomach.
Later, we must choose what type of structure best suits our lifestyle, For example, do we want to offer unique dishes or the typical combination of first course, second course and dessert? If the child eats in the school canteen, he will eat three dishes, but if he eats at home we can decide to combine everything in one. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the younger the child, the more likely it is that he will not be able to eat three courses and the meal is not nutritionally complete.
A single dish is characterized by including small portions of various foods, to achieve a balanced and complete dish both in its macro and micronutrient content. For its part, in the distribution of three dishes, these must be complementary, so the advice that we will list later can be applied in all cases.
About 10 years ago, Harvard University published a study that suggested, in a very visual way, what a healthy plate should contain both in childhood and in adulthood, instead of using the traditional pyramid of foods.
Children's rations must be smaller, but obviously the proportion of the different food groups must be kept constant and based on this, the Spanish association of pediatrics has adopted and adapted the recommendations to the Mediterranean lifestyle.
And this is how, according to experts from Harvard and the AEP, the ideal children's plate should contain:
- Half a plate of fruits and / or vegetables of various colors, since they provide different micronutrients. Preferably, fruits and vegetables should be eaten in season, and, in order to preserve the vitamins and minerals as much as possible, it is better to consume them raw and whole as much as possible. Fruits and vegetables also provide simple carbohydrates in small amounts.
- A quarter of the plate should be slow-absorbing carbohydrates. This group is made up of whole grains (pasta and / or rice), bread, quinoa and potatoes. It should be noted that, to limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates and refined cereals, it is better to limit refined rice and white bread.
- To complete the energy intake, the last quarter of the plate should be completed by protein foods. This highly varied group includes both animal and plant protein. You can choose eggs, fish, chicken / turkey, legumes (they also provide complex carbohydrates) or nuts (which also provide healthy fats).
Pork and beef should come from lean pieces and be limited to a couple of times a week. In addition, although this section includes processed meats (sausages, hamburgers, cold cuts ...) these are not considered as healthy as natural pieces, so their consumption should be moderate.
- For cooking, oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as olive, corn or sunflower should be used, choosing the oven, the grill and the boil as the most frequent culinary techniques.
- Two daily servings of dairy products (milk, cheese or yogurts) can be included, preferably at breakfast or in snacks, avoiding dairy desserts and flavored / sugary yogurts, always trying not to substitute the main drink of meals , which must be the water.
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