Dietician Speak with Dr. Anuja Agarwala, Senior Paediatric Dietician, AIIMS, Delhi

Dietician Speak with Dr. Anuja Agarwala, Senior Paediatric Dietician, AIIMS, Delhi

Dr. Anuja Agarwala is a Senior Paediatric Dietician at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. She is also the National Vice-President at Indian Dietetic Association.

How can I ensure that I am taking an adequate diet? Everyone says we need to have our protein, iron, calcium etc. right, but how do I know how much I am having and if it is enough?

Balanced diet and adequacy of diet as per age ensures the adequacy of proteins and calcium. Technically, ideal diet is calculated based on calories and protein requirement for age of the child. Eg: A two year old child needs 1200 Kcal/day while a 12 year old child needs 2200-2400 Kcal/day.

Individualized modification of the requirements is done based on weight, height and physical activity of a child.

In daily routine, one cannot calculate calories. By following some good habit tips, one can ensure adequacy of diet:

  • Follow 6 meal pattern – 3 major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 3 minor meals (mid-morning/recess, evening time and bedtime).
  • Do not over eat or under eat just eat adequately. Fibre provides bulk to the diet and prevents overeating. A mixed meal is healthy whether eaten as major or minor meal eg; Eating only parantha and vegetable would provide carbohydrate and fat. Add curd/ omelet/ paneer to provide protein as well.
  • Do not miss breakfast – it is the first important meal of the day.
  • If you are not gaining appropriate height, take good amount of protein in the diet, although tallness also depends on parental height.
  • At least one hour physical activity every day is must to maintain your health and wellbeing.

I do not like veggies but my parents say that they are healthy? What to do?

Yes, vegetables are very healthy. At least 1/3rd of our daily food should be in the form of vegetables. These days, many children complain of constipation which is primarily due to the fact that they do not eat vegetables.

Some children do not like cooked vegetables but raw vegetables/salad. Other alternatives of eating vegetable are vegetable pulao, vegetable raita, stuffed in chapatti/ parantha, cooked along with dal/ egg/ meat and cooked as thick soup (without sieving). Vegetables can be disguised and added to food by making thick pulp of mixed vegetables and adding it to dough, dal, curries and in everything. Remember, vegetables lose their nutritional goodness if overcooked.
Vegetables can also be substituted with low sugar, high fibre fruits such as papaya, melon, apple, guava, pomegranate, pear and oranges.

I love to eat junk food? How much can I enjoy that with my food?

Junk food is defined as food rich in fat, salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates and low in fiber content. Some examples of junk food made out of sugar and refined carbohydrates (maida) are pizza, burger, batura, naan, biscuits, bread, cakes, pastries etc. Baked commercial products contain bad fats (called trans fats). Junk food is very bad for health and is known to cause obesity in children. Obesity, in turn is the root cause for many life style disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.
It is therefore best to avoid junk food and eat home-made food, but if at all one is very fond of it, it is advisable to eat junk food once in fifteen days. Junk food should not be made part of the meal or a complete meal on daily basis. Junk actually means rubbish which will harm our body and will not provide good nutrients.

What should be the ideal weight for me (7-14 years)? How can I maintain it?

As you grow and you body changes, it is not always easy to tell if you fall within a healthy weight range. Body mass index (BMI) is a way of describing height and weight in one number that can help tell if someone’s weight is healthy. Check your weight and height once in 3 months and tally with the table given. More weight than the ideal means you are eating too much and you need to control your food intake. You can take dietitian’s help if you are gaining excessive weight.