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What should kids eat to fight COVID-19?

By RYAN FERNANDO
May 07, 2021 10:44 IST
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Offer your child raw vegetables and fresh fruit as snacks instead of foods high in sugars, fats, or salts, insists nutritionist Ryan Fernando.

Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Alex Green/Pexels.com

The coronavirus disease pandemic has thrown children's and their families' lives into disarray all over the world.

Although the symptoms of the virus are more or less similar, children are more likely to have a milder disease than adults.

Children's immune systems differ from adults' and can vary greatly depending on their age, so it's important to make sure they're getting the right nutrition.

Our body's ability to resist, combat, and recover from infections is influenced by what we eat and drink. Hence, eating a balanced diet is important.

Good nutrition is essential for good health, especially when the immune system is under attack. Access to fresh foods can be restricted, limiting opportunities to maintain a balanced and varied diet.

It can also contribute to an increase in the processed foods consumption that are high in fats, sugars, and salts. Nonetheless, a diet that promotes good health can be maintained even with few and minimal ingredients.

Even though no foods or dietary supplements can treat or inhibit COVID-19 infection, eating a healthy diet is crucial for immune system support.

Here are some simple tips to keep in mind while planning your daily meal for your children.

  • A healthy diet for babies includes exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months, from the age of six months to two years. Nutritious and safe foods need to be introduced to complement breast milk.
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet is important for young children's development and growth. It can help older people live healthier and more involved lives.
  • Make sure your child gets a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes like beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains like oats, brown rice, wheat, millet (unprocessed), or roots like beetroot, potatoes, as well as eggs, meat, milk and fish.
  • A cup of fruit per day is recommended for toddlers aged 2 to 3.
  • Make sure your child gets one cup of cooked or raw vegetables per day. Consume a variety of plants, such legumes, orange and red brightly coloured vegetables and leafy greens.
  • Protein should be consumed in 2–3 portions a day.
  • Fish should be eaten at least twice a week, with oily fish such as salmon, sardines, or mackerel being one of them.
  • Walnuts, pistachios and almonds are protein-rich nuts that can be given to children over the age of five.
  • Whole milk or yoghurt should be given to children under the age of two. Vitamin D-fortified dairy products are a better source.
  • Offer your child raw vegetables and fresh fruit as snacks instead of foods high in sugars, fats, or salts. Make sure you don't overcook your vegetables and fruit, as this can cause essential vitamins to be lost.
  • Ensure that your child drinks 5 to 7 cups of water per day. It can consist of water of all types, as well as other liquids and foods. The best choice would be water, but you can also offer them something like unsweetened milk, as well as fruit and vegetables that contain water, such as tomatoes, melon, oranges, cucumber, spinach, apples and mushrooms.
  • High sugar drinks such as sweetened fruit juices, fizzy drinks and syrups should better be avoided.
  • Your child should consume unsaturated fats like olive oil, fish, almonds, sunflower oil and avocado instead of saturated fats like milk, coconut oil, ghee, fatty meat, butter and cheese.
  • Processed foods, cookies, snacks items, spreads, fried foods and fast foods all contain industrially manufactured trans fats.
  • Limit salt and high-sodium condiments when cooking and preparing food for your kids. Use iodized salt and limit your daily salt intake to less than 5 gm (approximately 1 teaspoon).

It's vital to keep meals simple when involving kids in the kitchen, and to teach them about proper food safety, including hand washing, cleaning surfaces and avoiding consumption of certain raw ingredients.

Ryan Fernando is a qualified sports nutritionist and founder of QUA Nutrition, a chain of nutrition clinics in India. He has worked with celebrities and sports personalities including actors Aamir Khan, Kajal Aggarwal, Abhishek Bachchan and cricketer Virat Kohli to name a few.

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