To provide complete nutrition to child, just add a portion of fruits to the regular diet

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Almost all nutrition experts agree that all children 2 years and above, should eat more fruits, vegetables, and grain products, while consuming diets that are lower in total fat, saturated fatty acids, and dietary cholesterol.

What's wrong with this perception?

According to WHO, addition of a portion of fruits to the regular diet improves the absorption of Iron from other foods in the same meal but has a small effect on energy, protein and vitamin A gap [WHO, 2000].

Feeding Infants and Toddlers study (2004) alarmingly revealed that toddlers ate more fruits than vegetables and 1 in 4 did not consume even 1 vegetable on a given day. They were more likely to be eating fatty foods and sweet-tasting snacks and beverages [Mennella et al., 2006]. Given children’s innate preference for sweet foods, it is not surprising that some children might consume relatively large amounts of fruit juice, than whole fruits and vegetables. Excess fruit juice consumption has been associated with diarrhoea, growth failure, and short stature in some children, while in other children; excess juice intake has been associated with obesity [Dennison et al., 1997].

What do the guidelines say?

The general dietary recommendations of the expert group of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for infants and children younger than 5 years of age stress a diet that should be less bulky, rich in energy and protein such as legumes, pulses, nuts, edible oil/ghee, sugar, milk and eggs [Dietary guidelines for Indians, 2011]. ICMR recommendations captured in Table 1 provides recommended balanced diet for infants and children aged between 6 months to 6 years (Number of Portions).

Higher intakes of fruit (including fruit juices) were associated with reduced intakes of dietary total fat, saturated fatty acids, and cholesterol. In a national study, children meeting the USDA recommended intakes for fruits had significantly lower intakes of total fat [Munoj et al., 1997].

Inference

Thus, dietary guidance over time has supported the principles of moderation and variety. While addition of fruits is useful measure & an important effort towards meeting the daily recommended nutrition, but addition of only fruits cannot be the only measure to achieve the increased nutritional requirements. Therefore, emphasis should be to achieve involvement of all the food groups in a meal to ensure balanced nutrition needed for normal growth & development in infancy

 

Table 1. Balanced Diet for Infants and Children age 6 months to 6 years (Number of Portions)

Food groups

g/ portion

Infants 6-12 months

1- 3 Years

4-6 Years

Cereals & millets

30

0.5

2

4

Pulses

30

0.25

1

1

Milk (ml) & milk products

100

4

5

5

Roots & tubers

100

5

0.5

1

Green leafy vegetables

100

0.25

0.5

0.5

Other vegetables

100

0.25

0.5

1

Fruits

100

1

1

1

Sugar

5

2

3

4

Fat/ oil (visible)

5

4

5

5

 

Reference

  • Saadeh R, Martines J. Complementary Feeding: Family foods for Breastfed Children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2000
  • Gidding SS, Dennison BA, Birch LL, Daniels SR, Gillman MW, Lichtenstein AH, Rattay KT, Steinberger J, Stettler N, Van Horn L; American Heart Association.; American Academy of Pediatrics.. Dietary recommendations for children and adolescents: a guide for practitioners: consensus statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2005 Sep 27;112(13):2061-75
  • Mennella JA, Ziegler P, Briefel R, Novak T. Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study: the types of foods fed to Hispanic infants and toddlers. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106(suppl):s96–s106.
  • Dennison BA, Rockwell HL, Baker SL. Fruit and vegetable intake in young children. J Am CollNutr. 1998 Aug;17(4):371-8.
  • Muñoz KA, Krebs-Smith SM, Ballard-Barbash R, Cleveland LE. Food intakes of US  children and adolescents compared with recommendations. Pediatrics. 1997 Sep;100(3 Pt 1):323-9.
  • Dietary guidelines for Indians. Nat Inst Nutrition. 2011; 2:89-117.