By Dr Himani Khanna
* Try and include fruits and vegetables in the diet. Give them freshly-cut salads, large batches of soups and stews. Including seasonal fruits and vegetables are very essential as they are rich sources of essential micro-nutrients and minerals. Try and include all colours of fruits and vegetables in the diet as that will include a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals essential for the body. Take care to add foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits, foods rich in zinc, like whole grains, baked beans and nuts, in the diet. These can provide protection against viral infections.
* Eating freshly-cooked food, preferably home-cooked, is advised, because it will be nutritious and hygienic for children, thereby reducing risk of gut infections. Adding milk and milk-based products like curd will help in maintaining good health, and food fortified with Vitamin D can be a useful contribution, too.
* Avoid processed, artificially-coloured and artificially-preserved food, as they have high quantity of saturated fatty acids, sugars and salt. Avoid sugary drinks. Instead, replacing them with lemon water, adding cucumber or herbs like mint leaves and parsley are great ways to hydrate during the day. Make sure that your child consumes eight to 10 cups of liquids throughout the day. The liquids may include unsweetened milk, fresh citrus fruit juices, coconut water, etc.
* Following a fixed routine for having meals, such as family eating together, can promote healthy family time. Avoid watching TV or any kind of screen during meal times. Use the opportunity to make meals fun for children, so they eat a healthy and nutritious diet. Help them make their choices and make them a part of the decision-making process when planning the meals.
* For babies and infants, breastfeeding is important and it should not stop during the pandemic. Exclusive breastfeeding is essential for babies till six months, starting with complementary feeds in the sixth month, and continuation till two years, as recommended by UNICEF. If a mother is not well, she may feed expressed breast milk to the baby. Breast milk has been known to build the infants’ immune system, thereby protecting them from infections.
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* Lastly, keeping a healthy mind with a healthy body is of utmost importance. Teach children to express gratitude to the food that they eat and always keep the meal time happy. The thought with which we consume the food also helps secrete the right enzymes and digestive agents essential for proper digestion. A healthy body with a healthy mind, along with all the necessary precautions such as hand washing, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, shall make our children well prepared in their fight against COVID-19.
(The writer is a developmental paediatrician & co-founder of Continua Kids)
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