The mother’s nutritional status at the beginning of and during pregnancy and the child’s nutrition in the first years of life have an essential impact on the child’s health later in life. The building materials available for growth and development may have a permanent impact on the body's structures, functioning and metabolism.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up till the age of four to six months. All children need solid food from the age of six months.
For a child of normal birth weight born at full term, breast milk is sufficient for the only nutrition, excluding vitamin D, up to the age of six months. From the age of two weeks, a child should be given 2-10 μg/day of vitamin D supplement. According to the new dosing guidelines, vitamin D should be dosed individually, based on whether the infant is fed only breast milk or also an infant formula or a follow-on formula (recommendation of vitamin D supplements for infants).
If a breastfeeding mother spreads margarine on her bread on a daily basis, uses rape seed oil or a liquid vegetable oil product in cooking and oil in salad dressing, or eats fish two to three times a week, her breast milk will contain enough essential fatty acids to meet the baby's needs. Essential fatty acids are vital for the development of the child's nervous system and sight. If the mother eats a diverse and sufficient diet, breastfeeding will not deplete her nutrient stores.
Eating together promotes good health
Regular mealtimes are the cornerstone of healthy eating for both children and adults. In families, meals are a part of learning related to holistic well-being that comprises the daily patterns of life and time use, sleep, rest, control of screen time and exercise. Mealtimes with a welcoming atmosphere, participation and enjoyment of food have a positive influence on the child’s eating habits.
Fruit and vegetables in a child’s diet
A child should get at least one half of the adult’s intake of fruit and vegetables, or some 200–250 g a day, for example five portions that are the size of his or her hand. The child's portion size increases as he or she grows. Vegetables cannot be replaced by vitamin and mineral supplements, as research has shown that supplements do not produce the same health benefits as eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Using a moderate amount of poultry meat and some red meat as a source of protein is advisable. You should have legumes as part of your main meal every week. Eating fish two to three times a week is recommended for the whole family. Children are advised not to have high-protein milk products and drinks daily. An excessive protein intake may put both children's and adults’ kidneys under strain. Protein will also not build your muscles if your diet does not provide enough energy to meet your needs.
The role of dairy products in a child’s diet
All family members from the school age up are advised to have 500–600 ml of liquid milk products and two to three slices of cheese daily. For children under the school age, 400 ml of liquid milk products and one slice of cheese is enough. This amount of dairy products (milk, buttermilk and other cultured milk products) is required to secure sufficient calcium and iodine intake. Milk products naturally contain good quality protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. In a vegetarian diet, ensuring a sufficient intake of protein is easy when you eat dairy products.