Guide for a Balanced Diet for Children

It's important to take into account a series of key points if you want to achieve a balanced diet for children. Keep reading to learn more.
Guide for a Balanced Diet for Children

Last update: 25 June, 2022

In order to achieve a balanced diet for children, it’s important to take into account the nutritional guidelines. That way, you can cover their essential nutritional requirements. This, in turn, will ensure that their body functions correctly and that their growth and development are as expected. If there’s a failure at this point, chronic and complex diseases could be unleashed over the years.

Before we begin, we must point out that the diet of many people has worsened in recent decades. This is mainly due to increased exposure to ultra-processed industrial products from an early stage of life. These foods have an excessive amount of trans fatty acids, simple sugars, and additives.

Ensure a sufficient protein intake to achieve a balanced diet for children

The first thing to do when preparing a diet or menu is to ensure adequate protein intake. These nutrients are essential for the development and growth of the little ones and also contribute to the prevention of problems in the functioning of the muscles.

According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, sedentary people should ingest at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day. In the case of children, these requirements rise above one gram per kilogram of weight to ensure adequate growth. In addition, at least 50% of all proteins in the diet should be of high biological value, i.e. of animal origin.

Fresh meat, eggs, bread, leghumes, and spices.
Proteins are key elements in the diet, especially during childhood. Ensure variety and quality and always prioritize animal sources, as they contain those of high biological value.

Include quality fats in the diet

Another key point  is the need to include good quality fats in the diet.

Until recently, the quality of lipids (fats) in the diet was established according to the number of double bonds present in their molecules (defined as unsaturated, monosaturated, or polyunsaturated). However, today we know that what’s really important is the spatial configuration of the fatty acids and, in this sense, it’s key that more than 90% of the fats in the diet are of cis type and only 10% are trans.

Therefore, the determining factor is that the fats consumed haven’t been subjected to aggressive thermal processes or industrial hydrogenation. In these cases, we’d be talking about trans type lipids , which have been shown to increase the risk of disease.

Priority should be given, for example, to fatty acids from oily fish, from the omega 3 series.

Increase the presence of vegetables in the daily diet

Finally, special emphasis should be placed on the need to include foods of vegetable origin in each of the main meals. Between 3 and 5 servings of fruits and vegetables would be optimal to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and to prevent the development of chronic and complex diseases over the years. These foods are a source of micronutrients and phytochemicals with antioxidant capacity.

In addition, it’s good to ensure variety in terms of vegetables consumed. Each type of phytochemical enhances a particular physiological process. Thus, if many types are consumed, the risk of organs ceasing to function efficiently will be further reduced.

Finally, it’s important to review cooking methods in order to achieve optimal use of the nutrients present in vegetables.

A child picking vegetables from a garden.
Sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as their proper cooking method, ensures the incorporation of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients for the health of the little ones.

Guarantee a balanced diet for children with a basic guide

As you’ve seen, it’s possible to make small changes to significantly improve children’s diets. It’s essential to focus on the quality of nutrients and emphasize the presence of vegetables in their diet. This ensures proper development and prevents deficiencies that lead to malfunctioning of the body. Of course, the diet must always be balanced or slightly hypercaloric to avoid excess weight and obesity.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not only what you eat that matters when it comes to avoiding the onset of diseases. Attention should also be paid to other lifestyle habits such as regular physical exercise (with special emphasis on strength work) and a good night’s rest.

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  • Richter, M., Baerlocher, K., Bauer, J. M., Elmadfa, I., Heseker, H., Leschik-Bonnet, E., Stangl, G., Volkert, D., Stehle, P., & on behalf of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) (2019). Revised Reference Values for the Intake of Protein. Annals of nutrition & metabolism74(3), 242–250. https://doi.org/10.1159/000499374
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