Which foods are important for the optimal development of a child up to the age of five?

Which foods are important for the optimal development of a child up to the age of five?


The first 2,000 days of life, i.e., the period up to the age of five, are considered crucial for the physical development and health of any child.


Various studies have shown that the experiences a child goes through during this period have an impact that lasts for years.


All the experts BBC News Brazil spoke to emphasized the importance of a baby’s diet, especially during this period.


Monica Moritzhausen, a member of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, says that in the first few years of life, millions of new neural connections are being formed every second, and a healthy diet is essential for this. At the same time, good nutrition is important for a child’s physical growth and weight.


Based on interviews with medical experts and nutritionists, we can tell you what to feed a baby on a daily basis.


Mother's milk

Mother’s milk


Doctors say that the child should be breastfed until the age of six months.


According to Albert Einstein Hospital’s pediatrician, Jose Nilio Cavinato, “Not water or anything else; mother’s milk is enough for a baby.”


Breast milk is a food that contains all the ingredients that have the ability to protect the baby from many diseases, such as diarrhea or dysentery, respiratory diseases, and allergies.


Breast milk also reduces the risk of developing conditions such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, or obesity in the baby.


Experts say that to ensure that the mother’s milk is rich in nutrients, such women should also take special care of their diet.


Jose Nelio Cavinato says that the mother should have a good diet. “For example, we recommend an egg a day and fish once a week to ensure the supply of nutrients needed for a child’s brain development.”


Doctors say that ultra-processed foods should be avoided, and if necessary, vitamin D, omega-3, and iron supplements should be taken.


We know that these supplements are expensive and not available to everyone, so it’s important that breastfeeding women include as many foods as possible in their diet.


Babies who cannot be breastfed for any reason can be given formula milk.


The World Health Organization recommends that mothers should breastfeed for up to two years, with the first introduction of other foods at six months of age. The baby should be given porridge and fruit along with breast milk once a day for six months and twice a day in the seventh and eighth months.


In the ninth month, the baby should gradually be introduced to other foods. This diet includes cereals, proteins, vegetables, and pulses but should not contain salt.


Healthy food

Healthy food


Experts say that special care should be taken to ensure that the food being given to the child contains different quality ingredients.


To do this, it is recommended to divide the nutrients into different groups.


Jose Nelio Cavinato says that the healthy plate scheme should plan the two main meals of the day, lunch and dinner, which can be useful not only for the child but for life.


Stephanie Amaral, UNICEF’s health officer in Brazil, agrees. He says that parents should also take care of the source of whatever food is being given to the child.


It is important to eat a healthy diet free of processed and industrial foods that contain minimal amounts of sweeteners and other chemical ingredients.





What is very important to include in the diet of children and adults are vegetables, which should make up at least 50% of the plate.


According to SBP, children between the ages of one and two should be given vegetables twice a day, while children between the ages of two and five should be given vegetables three times a day.


Among vegetables, green leafy vegetables are a good source of fiber and vitamins, as well as minerals like folic acid and iron, says Jose Nilio Cavinato. Iron is very important for a child’s brain development.


Its deficiency is common worldwide, is a form of iron deficiency anemia, and affects a child’s sensory and motor development.


Folic acid is important for the nervous system, and its deficiency sometimes manifests as changes that are impossible to treat.


A lack of fiber also manifests itself in a number of ailments, including constipation, allergies, and a weakened immune system.


Experts believe that children who do not get the required amount of vitamin C daily are prone to skin diseases, iron deficiency, tooth loss, weak bones, and delayed wound healing. .


Jose Nilio Cavinato says that vitamin A deficiency can cause poor eyesight or blindness in children under five years of age.


Among vegetables, carrots and pumpkin are good sources of vitamin A, while eggplant is rich in important nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B-5. Broccoli provides vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A, as well as potassium.


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The rice, wheat, flour, bread, potato, barley, and corn groups contain foods that should make up 25 percent of a child’s plate.


Jose Nilio Cavinato says this group is a healthy source of carbohydrates and vitamins, as well as fats that provide energy to the body.


A lack of carbohydrates shows up in a bad mood. But on the other hand, their excess can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.


Experts say that 50 to 60 percent of the calories in the food given to the child should consist of carbohydrates.

Meat and eggs


The two main meals on a child’s day must include meat or eggs and should make up an eighth of the plate.


According to the SBP, children between the ages of one and three should eat at least two servings of meat or eggs a day, and the recommended amount for four- to five-year-olds is one serving a day.


The experts that BBC News Brazil spoke to said that the meat can be either chicken, beef, or even fish.


According to them, it is an important source of iron. Animal protein also provides vitamin B12, which is very important for children’s immune systems. Its deficiency can affect the physical development of the child.


According to José Nilio Cavinato, fish meat provides DHA, or omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for the nervous system. Apart from the human nervous system, this acid also plays an important role in the development of the retina and protects against diseases like obesity and high blood pressure.


They say that eggs are also rich in protein but should not be used as the sole source of protein.


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