When it comes to meal preparation, moms carefully plan what food to choose, how to prepare them, how much to give, and when to feed her child.
The first consideration in planning the child’s diet is to know what healthy ingredients can be obtained from food. These beneficial components are the six nutrients: carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Providing food that contains these nutrients should be every mom’s goal in preparing her child’s daily meals.
Unfortunately, food that is affordable and accessible, looks good, gives comfort, and tastes great may influence a mom’s choices instead of the nutrient content in food. This could be a reason why many Filipino children do not meet the recommended dietary requirements and why malnutrition and obesity remains a national issue. Nutrient-filled foods are often displaced by nutrient-poor choices.
The sweet but sorry truth
The 2018 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) and Kids Nutrition and Health Study (KIDS) which assessed the nutrient consumption and food sources of Filipino children clearly showed this lapse. Children’s diet from age 6 months to 5 years consisted mainly of rice and sugary snacks while important sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, and eggs, were sparingly eaten.
In FITS and KIDS, it was found that the second most consumed food was ‘all sweets’ such as sugar, cookies, biscuits, cakes, and candy. In older children, this sweet dilemma was more disturbing since their total sugar intake was observed to be similar or even higher than the intake of adults especially among the richest group.
These studies also revealed that cow’s milk was among the first five sources of all nutrients among children aged 3 to 5 years while sweetened beverages were consistently the fifth source of nutrients in the diet of older children (Figure 1).
Lactose and sugar in milk
Milk is an important source of nutrients and can make a significant contribution to the required dietary intakes of children. Milk that is given to children contain good quality protein, the right amount of fat, and carbohydrate that is 100% lactose without any trace of sucrose or table sugar. Lactose is the unique carbohydrate and naturally-occurring sugar found in milk. It provides the right quality and amount of sugar that lessens the risk of overweight in childhood because of its inherent low glycemic index. In contrast, added sugars such as sucrose are concentrated sources of calories which the World Health Organization recommends to be limited to 5 to 10% of daily calorie consumption to reduce the negative effects of unhealthy weight gain and dental caries.
FITS and the child’s diet
The 2018 FITS study showed that Filipino children aged 6 months to 5 years have inadequate intakes of vitamins and minerals because their diet consisted of mostly rice and sugary foods while vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, and eggs were sparingly eaten. Children need a variety of nutrient-dense food such as fruits and vegetables instead of high-calorie and nutrient-poor food. Milk with good quality protein and no added sugar is also important to meet a child’s daily nutrient requirements.
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9. World Health Organization (WHO). e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA), Guidelines: Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults, 2015.