Right diet is important for both physical and mental wellbeing of a growing child. NIVEDITA DAS GUPTA tells you how
Many of us are lucky enough to have grown up in a loving and caring family environment, especially in the early years of our lives where this strong support ecosystem is of paramount importance. Given that our formative years are where the major part of our development takes place, these are the years which are crucial in laying the foundation for our physical and mental health. The phrase ‘eat well, you’re a growing child!’, is something a lot of us may be familiar with. A balanced diet is necessary for good health throughout one’s life. However, while the right nutrition is something that most parents emphasise on, mental wellness is equally important for overall physical wellbeing. Here are some factors that highlight the significance of nutrition and mental health, especially in the early years of a child’s life.
The impact of the right nutrition on physical and mental health:
The right diet is important for both physical and mental health, especially in earlier years when the body and brain are at crucial stages of development. Each of our bodies has different requirements and levels of activity. For instance, the recommended calorie intake for most kids between the age of 6 and 12 years is in the range of 1,600 to 2,200 per day, depending on their level of activity. Hence, a child’s food intake must be planned accordingly by the parent or guardian. A good diet consists of the right balance between the intake of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, fats, iron, and calcium.
Protein-rich food such as eggs, chicken, dal and other lentils play a key role in building cells and breaking down food into energy. While carbohydrates from sugar and empty calories from chips and snacks lack nutrition, the good kind of carbs help the child’s body use fat and protein to build tissue and are a major source of energy. These include foods such as bread, rice, poha, and potatoes.
Foods like dry fruits, nuts, rajma, and spinach are high in iron content. Iron is essential to the healthy flow of blood and carries oxygen within the body. For blood clotting, on the other hand, calcium is the necessary component. It is found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, spinach, and paneer. Calcium helps with building healthy bones and teeth in children’s bodies and is also imperative for optimal muscle and heart function.
WHO data recently revealed that India is the most depressed country in the world, with around 6.5 per cent of the population suffering from some form of serious mental disorders. While it may not be as obvious, mental illness can take a huge toll on a person and can even be more difficult to deal with than a physical ailment. Children, in particular, those at a young age, are more prone to external influences from their immediate environment.
In essence, it is common knowledge that eating well, sleeping well and a good level of activity, are the keys to maintaining good health. However, it is equally important to acknowledge the significance of mental health on the body. This holds greater importance during early development making it necessary to address the need amongst young children.
A healthy lifestyle incorporating the above-mentioned factors can be inculcated with the right kind of family support and awareness. By creating such an ideal environment to nurture the various facets of physical and mental wellbeing, parents can ensure a strong foundation for the child’s overall development in the future.
The writer is Country Head, Miracle Foundation India