Balanced diet for children is the ‘diet containing variety of foods in such quantities and proportions, which fulfills the needs for all essential nutrients, necessary to maintain optimal health and growth.
Principles: General characteristics of a balanced diet for children, based on dietary goals from various sources (Prudent diet; WHO) are as follows —
a) Quantitatively, it should fulfill recommended daily allowances for all nutrients.
b) Qualitatively, it should provide 15-20% of calories from proteins, 20-30% by fats* and rest 50-60% from carbohydrates, along with all desired micro nutrients.
* However, not more than 10% calories should be from saturated tats.
c) It should contain adequate mix of various foodstuffs like cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk and other animal products, according to local dietary habits, customs and economic capacity. Various types of mixed Balanced diet include —
• Double mix (cereals + pulses),
• Triple mix (cereals + pulses ÷ vegetables) or
• Quadri -mix (cereals + pulses + vegetables ÷ animal food)
Cereal-pulse combination is a very rational dietary practice, as cereal proteins are deficient in lysine and pulse proteins in methionine. Combining them together complements each others amino acid deficiency to increase the nutritive value of food thus being Balanced diet for children.
d) Daily salt intake should not exceed >5 gm/day, though higher intake may be necessary in tropical countries like India.
e) It should be palatable, digestible and hygienic.