Nutrition for children

Part of your role is to provide children in your care a balanced and healthy diet. If you have any concerns about the child being overweight or underweight, see your doctor or talk to your care team. Sometimes a medical specialist or a dietician is needed, if so this will be included in the case plan.

Nutrition for Children

Nutrition needs change at different stages of life. Infants (newborn to 2 years old) experience quite rapid growth. The rate of growth becomes more steady through childhood, until another period of rapid growth (often called a growth spurt), which occurs towards adolescence.

Adolescence is a period of enormous change, both physically and psychologically. During this time children may need more food than adults. Children need a healthy, balanced diet to grow and develop naturally.

National dietary guidelines

The National Dietary Guidelines highlight the groups of foods and lifestyle patterns that contribute to good nutrition and good health.

The main principle behind a healthy, balanced diet is to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day, and to drink plenty of water.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends including foods from the five core food groups

  • bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
  • vegetables, legumes
  • fruit
  • lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes
  • dairy

Some foods are not recommended daily, but may be eaten sometimes or in small amounts. These are “extra foods” and don’t have much nutritional value. Examples are soft drinks, chips, lollies, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and fast foods such as pizza and pies.

Margarines and oils also fall into the extra food group but we need some fats and oils in our diet to help absorb nutrients and strengthen cells. The important thing is to include “good” fats (unsaturated fats) and avoid “bad” ones (saturated fats). Good fats and oils include canola, sunflower and olive oils, and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated margarines. Saturated fats usually come from animals, for example, butter.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is an essential nutrient for life and is the preferred drink for children. The amount needed by a child depends on their age, level of activity and the weather. Some fluid comes from food, but it is important to drink regularly during the day.

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