At a time when a balanced diet is gaining prominence among people, the Indian Dietetics Association (IDA) observed the first Dietetics Day across the country on Thursday with its theme “A healthy foundation for a healthy tomorrow” focussing on children.

Highlighting the need for a balanced diet and more attention towards children, R. Rajashekhar, a former Deputy Commissioner of Transport, said food habits from a child’s birth to adolescence play a vital role in the overall development of personality.

Adequate food and rest

Mr. Rajashekhar told The Hindu that the foundation for a healthy child should be laid when it is in the womb itself and the prospective mother should take adequate food from all food groups coupled with adequate rest. “Any malnutrition during pregnancy or motherhood is bound to affect the child,” he said.

While reiterating many standard food habits for pregnant woman, Mr. Rajashekhar suggested that pre-school kids should be given four to six small meals a day instead of three large meals. They may not be in a position to digest large meals, he cautioned.

Those kids should be given milk up to half-a-litre, almost all categories of fruits, vegetables and vegetable soups.

Schoolchildren and adolescents should be given body building protein-rich foods along with fruits and vegetables for better growth and development.

Ensure outdoor play

Parents should not allow kids to skip breakfasts and ensure that they indulge in regular outdoor play — games, cycling, exercise etc. Evening snacks too are important and they may contain home-made fruit milk shakes.

The adolescent period is the time when the child gains maturity of body and mind, he said.

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