There is always a priority when it comes to children. As parents, we are always worried about their wellbeing and as such feeding them with the right nutrition is always the main concern.
Children can be a source of happiness for many families. However, taking care of them can be a struggle, especially when it comes to properly providing them with adequate nutrition. What keeps them healthy becomes an emphasis amidst the ongoing global pandemic.
Speaking to Specialist Clinic and Resident Paediatrician from Rejang Medical Centre at Sibu, Sarawak Dr Herbert Loi Deck Siong, he opined that providing balanced nutrition for children above one-year-old is important.
“Powering the child’s body with nutrient-rich food ensures optimal growth and development as well as a strong immune system.”
According to Dr Loi also, the early years, especially the first five years of life is important for any human beings. “The initial stage is a time of rapid physical and mental development where 90 percent of brain development takes place. Hence, it is important for parents to start laying the building blocks to a healthier life.”
Meanwhile, Clinical Dietitian and Head of Dietetic Services of UM Specialist Centre Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Rozanna M Rosly shared that complications may arise to children who are undernourished for a long period of time.
“As children gain weight and grow more rapidly than at any other time in life, it is important to recognise and treat children who are not gaining weight normally.
“This is because it may be a sign of under-nutrition or an underlying medical problem that requires treatment. Under- nutrition can have complications, such as a weakened immune system, slower than expected linear growth, shorter than expected height or difficulties with learning.”
Nonetheless, there are two sides of the same coin as some children do not gain weight at a normal rate.
“This is also because of expected variations related to genes,” she added.
What are the nutritional needs of children?
Based on a recent nationwide survey titled #ImmunityMatters by Mead Johnson Nutrition’s Enfagrow A+ Malaysia, 94 percent of parents believe that nutrition plays an important role in a child’s health.
Dr Loi shared that children aged one to three years old have a greater requirement as they are rapidly growing.
“Parents can follow the five food groups from the food pyramid as a guide to provide a healthy and balanced diet.
“For instance, whole grains and carbohydrates are good for fibre and energy. Vegetables and fruits are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemical 2 which can strengthen immunity.”
He also added that taking meat, fish and legumes can provide the child with protein, vitamins, iron, foliate and zinc.
“Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are rich in calcium, vitamins and minerals as well,” he pointed out.
According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents 2013, children are encouraged to consume two to three servings of milk or dairy product a day.
Commenting on this fact, the consultant paediatrician said milk is one of the most important contributions in a growing up child’s diet, “as it is a nutrient-dense food that provides energy, high-quality protein and micro nutrients such as calcium magnesium, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and pantothenic acid.”
Furthermore, Growing-Up milk is complemented with ingredients such as Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM), Docosahexaenoic (DHA) and Yeast Beta Glucan which the doctor said is able to protect against infection. Nonetheless, milk is a nutritious beverage good for all ages.
“It is a good source of energy, contains high-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D to support optimal growth, bone health and immunity,” added Dr Loi.
Nutrient with a rich component such as MFGM is naturally present in our brain and studies have shown that MFGM plays a dual role in activating and modulating the function of immune cells to defend against bacteria and viruses, he explained.
Meanwhile, Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic (DHA) is found in our brain and fatty fish such as salmon. “DHA helps modulates the function of the immune cell response to bacteria and viruses. Working together with MFGM, DHA modulates a balanced and effective immune response. to fight infections,” he added.
Through the #ImmunityMatters survey, 82 per cent parents believed that a child’s immune health can be nurtured over time, while 84 per cent of parents are incorporating more immunity-boosting foods in their daily diet to keep their natural defences up and healthy.
Specialist Clinic and Resident Paediatrician from Rejang Medical Center at Sibu, Sarawak Dr Herbert Loi Deck Siong shared on how to ensure a balance in children’s nutritional lifestyle
• As a guide, parents can follow MyHealthyPlate or QuarterQuarterHalf (downloadable via Google Play Store) where ¼ of your plate should be filed with whole grains or carbohydrates such as rice, pasta or potatoes. Another ¼ should be protein such as meat fish, poultry or tofu whereas the remaining half should be filled with non-starchy vegetables such as leafy vegetables, broccoli or tomatoes.
• Our meals should be consumed in balance, moderation and variety. Take a balanced meal that contains the key food groups, eat moderately and choose a variety of foods, for example vegetables, fruits, fish, dairy, beans or grains.
• Growing-up Children learn quickly from their environment, parents should also set an example by setting positive attitudes towards food. Eat healthily together as a family and practice what you preach.
• However, the amount of food varies in age group and gender, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you are not sure about your child’s everyday diet.
How to care for child’s immunity?
By Specialist Clinic and Resident Paediatrician from Rejang Medical Center at Sibu, Sarawak Dr Herbert Loi Deck Siong
• It is best to nourish your growing up child with a wide variety of food and maintaining a healthy diet according to the food pyramid.
• Proper nutrition has a profound effect on immunity, 70 – 80 per cent of our immune cells are found in the gut where the immune system can be activated and modulated by key nutrients. Incorporating key nutrients on top of a balanced diet can help support your child’s natural body defences.
• It is never too late to be aware about your child’s eating habits and making sure that their diet is varied, nutritious and healthy. Through eating well, our immune system can be further supported and nourished.
• Besides this, adequate sleep is vital. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can make children more susceptible to illnesses. One- to two-year-olds requires 11 to 14 hours of sleep and three- to five-year-olds need 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including naps.
• Drinking plenty of water and staying active is the key to keep our bodily functions working properly.
• Practising good hygiene by washing hands properly can reduce the spread of germs.
1.Veereman-Wauters G et al. Milk fat globule membrane (INPULSE) enriched formula milk decreases febrile episodes and may improve behavioral regulation in young children. Nutrition. 2012;28:749-752. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900711003741?via%3Dihub
2.Li F, Jin X, Liu B, Zhuang W, Scalabrin D. Follow-up Formula consumption in 3- to 4-Year-Olds and Respiratory Infections: An RCT. Pediatrics 2014;133:e1533-1540. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24843061
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only for children aged above one (1) year old and it should not be construed as personal medical advice, nor for medical diagnosis or treatment. At all times, please ensure you seek the advice of your healthcare professional when you require medical advice and do so immediately in cases where there is an emergency.