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The child's nutritional requirements

Food plays a very important role during the child's first years, as it ensures proper growth and development and also helps to prevent health problems and diseases.

 

In order to function properly, the child's body requires five fundamental nutrients:

- Proteins: these are essential substances for the formation and development of the body and for the regeneration of tissues. They are found in foods from animal sources (meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products) and plant sources (peas, beans, lentils, etc.).

They should account for approximately 12 per cent of your child's daily energy intake.

- Carbohydrates: these are the body's main source of energy. They are divided into simple and complex: the former act immediately, giving a quick energy boost (sugar, honey, milk and fruit); the latter provide energy over a longer period (cereals, potatoes, pulses, chestnuts, etc.).

They must represent a significant proportion, 60 per cent (10 per cent simple and 50 per cent complex), of our daily energy requirements.

 

- Vitamins: these serve to regulate and coordinate the activity of all our cells. Vitamin A is necessary for our sight, skin, growth and circulation. Vitamin C helps to boost the body's defences, and group B vitamins are highly valuable for the nervous system.

Vitamins are present in almost all food groups: fish, meat and eggs are rich in B-group vitamins, D, K and PP; milk, other dairy products and vegetables are rich in vitamins A and B2; cereals and nuts contain B-group vitamins and vitamin PP; and fruit and vegetables contain vitamins A and C.

 

- Mineral salts: these are essential for the body as they have many functions: calcium (dairy products, vegetables and pulses), phosphorus (dairy products, fish and nuts) and fluoride (fish) help to build bones and teeth; iron (meat, eggs, pulses and vegetables) forms red blood cells; sodium and potassium (meat, cereals, vegetables and fruit) are beneficial to the nervous system, heart and muscles.

 

- Fats: these are the energy-rich nutrients par excellence. They are involved in the formation of the nervous system and cell membranes in the brain. They are also essential for the body to absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E and K). They are divided into two groups: saturated fats (those from animal sources), which are found in butter, cream, red meat, cheeses and sausages; and non-saturated fats (those from vegetable sources), which are present in olive oil, certain white meats and some types of fish.

They should represent 25-30 per cent of our daily energy intake (20 per cent non-saturated fats and 10 per cent saturated).

 

A balanced diet must include these substances on a daily basis at each meal. Here are the recommended daily amounts of these nutrients (per kilogram of body weight), according to the child's age:

 

 

Age

Energy
(Kcal)

Proteins
(grams)

Carbohydrates
(grams)

Vitamin B
(milligrams)

Vitamin C
(milligrams)

0-6 months

115/kg

1.9 kg

6-12/kg

0.3

20

6-12 months

105/kg

1.7 kg

6-12/kg

0.3

20

1-3 years

90/kg

15

6-12/kg

0.5

20

Age

Vitamin D 
(micrograms)

Iron
(milligrams)

Calcium
(milligrams)

Phosphorus
(milligrams)

Fats
(grams)

0-6 months

10

6

360

240

3-4/kg

6-12 months

10

6

600

360

3-4/kg

1-3 years

10

7

600

600

3-4/kg

 

 

Each type of food has a particular function and it provides very specific nutrients. Learning to combine foods and establish a proper diet is essential for your child's development and health. The following table shows an example of the daily diet that your little one should follow:

 

 

Meal

First Day

Second Day

Third Day

Breakfast

Milk with cereal or biscuits

Fruit, slice of toast or biscuits and milk

Milk with cereal or biscuits

Lunch

Pasta with tomato sauce and chicken, fruit and water

Vegetable soup, fish with carrot and fruit juice

Vegetables with meat, banana or yoghurt and water

Tea

Yoghurt with grated fruit and biscuits

Milk, biscuits and fruit

Milk with toast and fruit

Dinner

Couscous, cheese, grated fruit or fruit juice

Steamed fish with vegetables, grated fruit and water

Steamed meat, mashed potato and courgette and fruit juice