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Toddlerhood is the transition period for children wherein they learn to eat variety of new foods, tastes and textures. Optimal nutrition is of greatest importance during this time because of its effect on the growth and development of body, brain, nervous system, general health and well-being, and the future health of the child.
Early years of childhood are crucial for foundation building of the body as it is during this time when weight gain happens at a rapid pace. Also, 90% of brain development happens till the age of 6. Thus when a child enters toddlerhood from infancy, parents are literally tensed and burdened thinking about how to feed them and what all to feed them and in what quantity so that they don’t miss their nutritional requirements.
In ideal situation a toddler should have 3 large meals like an adult. But that is just a dream. Every child is different and so are their likes, dislikes, needs, requirements, habits, etc. Also a toddler’s appetite and the amount that they eat may vary from day to day. And on top of that comes the problem of fussy and picky eaters which means that either they resist eating certain foods, or for long periods insist on eating only particular food items.
This becomes frustrating for the parents due to which they try to feed the child forcefully. But the key to tackling fussy eaters is to be patient. The more worried and anxious the parents are; the more determined the child becomes in resisting food. Rather if the parents offer the child a variety of healthy foods and leave the choices to them, they will eventually consume food on their own. Although that can be very messy at times, it will give them a feeling of freedom, confidence and satisfaction. Healthy food may then appear to be more interesting. As has been rightly said by Jane Nelsen – “The challenge of parenting lies in finding the balance between nurturing, protecting, and guiding, on one hand, and allowing your child to explore, experiment, and become an independent, unique person, on the other.”
Depending on the age, size, and activity level, toddlers need about 1,000-1,400 calories a day. So the daily diet of toddlers must include food from four main food groups (in the right balance and right portion sizes) - Starchy foods, Fruits and vegetables, Dairy products and Protein based foods. Therefore, one should prepare balanced meals and healthy snacks for toddlers where fats, oils, butter, spreads and sugary items can be included only in small amounts.
But mostly, especially in the case of fussy and picky eaters, the daily requirement of nutrition is not met by the foods that they eat. For example, Calcium is very important for the body as it contributes to the formation and maintenance of bones. In fact for optimal bone health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 700 milligrams of calcium and 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D (which aids in calcium absorption) a day.
Also, DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) which is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid is very important as it is nutrition for the brain. Its job is to go straight to tissues in the brain, and keep them functioning to the best of their ability. Between birth and 5 years of age, the human brain increases approximately 3.5 times in mass. Thus, although DHA is important all through the life cycle, it is particularly important during the first 2 years of life and early childhood. However, only oily cold water fish and seafood are rich natural sources of DHA while plant sources contain little or no DHA.
Thus to help bridge gaps in nutrition and aid the child’s overall development, one can opt for age-appropriate nutritional supplements which when added to milk enhance the benefits derived from it. As the physical and mental requirements of children change with age, it is necessary to select specialized nutritional supplement for toddlers and not just any popular health drink. For example, toddlers in the age group of 2-4 years need nutrients that help in weight gain and healthy brain development, while the ones in the age group of 4-6 need milk calcium and high protein for bone growth and height gain.
There are several drinks available in the market but Junior Horlicks has been designed as per ICMR and WHO guidelines. It has goodness of natural ingredients like milk, wheat, and malted barley and contains no artificial sweetener, colour or preservatives. Thus, it helps complete the nutritional requirement of a child, when given as a supplement along with daily diet and helps in optimal growth.