DAILY NUTRITIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN
As a child grows, his nutritional needs change – calorie requirements increase and his diet needs to contain appropriate amounts of key nutrients. Although the amount of food a child needs to consume to meet his daily energy and nutritional needs varies according to his size, weight and level of activity, the following figures provide some general guidelines.
CHILDREN AND SWEET FOODS
Child nutrition is extremely important. Getting it right is vital. Children naturally enjoy the taste of sugar and sweet foods. Although sugary foods provide calories, they are of little nutritional value and are a major cause of tooth decay. Some nutritionists believe that certain colourings used in confectionery can trigger hyperactivity (see pp.307-308), or aggressive, fidgety or tearful behaviour.
Banning sweets and sweet foods entirely can make a child feel deprived, especially if friends are allowed to eat them. Unless a child is hyperactive, sweets as occasional treats are harmless, but they should never be used as bribes or rewards; this only increases the desire for them. From an early stage, parents should encourage their child to appreciate savoury foods and to accept that sweet foods are occasional treats.
Ice-cream and cakes make better treats than sweets, because they contain nutrients in the form of milk and grains. Milk chocolate does less harm to the teeth than other forms of confectionery; it also contains protein and some minerals, including potassium. Because milk chocolate is a stimulant, however, it should be given in moderation. Plain chocolate should be avoided, as it is generally considered too rich for children.
A sweet treat with meals is less damaging to teeth than sweet snacks eaten throughout the day. Tooth decay can be further minimized if a child is encouraged to clean his teeth after each meal.