Food Requirements

For the sake of better understanding, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has divided food into five groups. This helps plan your meals in a way that body’s daily needs are met. For details Food Pyramid

Food Groups

Main Nutrients

Cereal grains and products: Rice, wheat, Ragi, Bajra, Maize, Jowar, Barley, rice flakesEnergy, Protein, Invisible fat, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Folic acid, Iron, Fibre
Pulses and legumes: Bengal gram, Black gram, Red gram, Lentil (whole as well as dhals), cowpea, Peas, Rajmah, Soyabeans, BeansEnergy, Protein, Invisible fat, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 Folic acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre
Milk and Meat Products: Milk, Curd, Skimmed Milk, Cheese,Chicken, Liver, Fish, Egg, Meat
  • Protein, Fat, Vitamin B2, Calcium
  • Protein, fat, Vitamin B2
Fruits and Vegetables:
  • Fruits: Mango, Guava, Tomato, Papaya, Orange, Sweet Lime, Water Melon.
  • Vegetables: (green Leafy)
  • Amaranth, Spinach, Gogu, Drumstick leaves,
  • Coriander leaves, Fenugreek leaves.
  • Other vegetables: Carrots, Brinjal, Ladies fingers, Capsicum, Beans, Onions, Drumstick, Cauliflower.
  • Carotenoids, vitamin C, Invisble fat, Vitamin B2 ,
  • Folic acid, Iron, Fibre
  • Vitamin B2, Folic acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre, Carotenoids
  • Carotenoids, Folic acid, calcium Fibre.
Fats and Sugar:
  • Fats: Butter, Ghee Hydrogenated fat, Cooking oils like groundnut, Mustard,  Coconut
  • Sugar, Jaggery
  • Energy, Fat, Essential Fatty acids.
  • Energy

Few tips for planning a nutritive & palatable menu for your loved ones:

  1. It is better to include two cereals in one meal like rice and wheat.
  2. Flour should not be sieved for chapati as it will reduce bran content.
  3. One serving of vegetable is 75 g. Green leafy vegetable can be taken more than one serving if fruit is not included in the diet.
  4. It is better to serve the fruit raw without much cooking or taking juice out of it. Everyday diet should contain at least one medium size fruit.
  5. There should be minimum milk of 100 ml/day. One to two glasses of milk or curd should be included in balanced diet.
  6. One egg weighs around 40 g. This can be served along with cereal or pulses to improve the quality of protein. Instead, one serving of poultry/fish can also be included in the diet.
  7. Inclusion of salads or raita not only help in meeting the vitamin requirements but the meals would be attractive and have high satiety value, due to the fibre content.
  8. One third of nutritional requirement – at least calories and protein should be met by lunch and dinner.
  9. Usually the number of meals would be four and for very young children and diseased, number of meals can be more.
  10. Ideally each meal should consist of all the five groups.


+ Points

Boiled egg, egg custardRich in vitamin A and good quality protein
Coriander and mint chutney, with bread/ chapatiNot only rich in beta carotene but also rich in other nutrients
Carrot halwa, carrot salad, carrot kheer. Carrot juiceRich in beta carotene
PapayaRich in beta carotene
Orange juice, tomato juice, mango juiceRich in beta carotene and Vitamin C
Palak dalRich in beta carotene and protein

Feeding School Children :

Nutrition for your school going child is an important issue as there is an established relationship between sound nutrition and learning. At this time your child is more interested and participates in a host of other activities, which compete with meal times. Breakfast is particularly important for a school child. It is the first meal your child takes after a virtual fast of 6-8 hours and prepares a child for problem solving and better memory spans in the learning period at school. In certain schools, the school lunch program provides a nourishing noon meal for many children who would not otherwise have one.

Tips for planning menus for school going children :

  1. Daily meals should meet your child’s increasing needs due to activity, growth and special requirements because of sickness or injury.
  2. By nature children are restless and do not like/have much time at the table eating. In the morning, they are rushed so as not to miss the school bus. You have to plan dishes that are quick to eat and nutritious.
  3. Children also tend to be bored with foods easily. So menus need to provide variety in color, texture, taste and flavor.
  4. You must also keep in mind the climatic conditions. During summer extra liquids and salts are to be given to replenish extra loss in sweat.
  5. Children have varying appetites and often prefer snacky meals at frequent intervals to a few large ones. Keep thinking of newer, nutritious snacks for your child.
  6. A child should be encouraged to eat with the rest of the family when he is ready to take the family meals. Such interactions between family members are a part of normal development.
  7. If your child does not like salads, they can be incorporated, in sandwiches.


Spacing Meals

Children at this age need usually four to five meals. The child should be encouraged to get up about half an hour before breakfast. About twenty minutes may be needed for the meal. When the child goes to school, it’s a good idea to allow about half an hour between breakfast and school time for the child to get ready. Lunchtime should be midway between breakfast and dinner. Children need a mid-morning as well as a mid afternoon snack. A number of foods are normally available, these includes fruits such as guavas, bananas, amla, bor, etc., roasted legumes such as groundnuts, chanas etc. these are available near school in addition to the snacks sold in the school canteen. If well chosen, these snacks can provide important nutrients in addition to calories. If the children buy candy, peppermint, soft drinks, ice fruit, they get mainly calories only. These foods reduce or dull the appetite, without meeting the body’s need. Therefore, these foods are said to provide only “empty calories”

Breakfast - the Neglected Meal

With the need to adjust to the school time, the first meal is either scanty or omitted entirely. This is a hazard from the nutritional point of view. For a missed meal is hard to make up. There are many reasons why a child does not have a good breakfast. The breakfast may not be ready in time. If the child does not go to bed in time, it is difficult for him to get up early enough to find time to get ready for school and eat a good breakfast. The child`s ability to attend classes and learn his lessons at school may be affected, if he is hungry during school hour, due to a pure breakfast.

Breakfast can be a very enjoyable and varied meal. Some of the traditional breakfasts from some regions are given below :

A good breakfast should include some cereal or cereal dal preparation, some milk and fruit. However, if the fruit is preferred at some other time in the day, it may be omitted from the breakfast.


Breakfast foods

PunjabParatha and lassi
MaharashtraShira and milk, Dahi-pohe, Doodh-pohe
MadrasIdli Chutney and coffee, Dosa chutney and coffee, milk beverage
MysoreRagi preparation and buttermilk
Modern pattern in all regionsBread and Butter, cornflakes, egg, fruit, milk, tea/coffee

A good breakfast should include some cereal or cereal dal preparation, some milk and fruit. However, if the fruit is preferred at some other time in the day, it may be omitted from the breakfast.

Feeding Problems


Child’s likes and dislikes need to be considered while feeding. A child, who does not eat well, may be underweight due to Malnutrition. Malnutrition is not only due to poverty. Ignorance and/or fixed ideas on the part of young parents may lead to malnutrition, even in affluent families. Here is a checklist if your child is underweight.

  1. Does he miss breakfast or not take proper lunch, in a hurry to go to school?
  2. Is he too tired after school activities and sleeps off without taking proper night meals?
  3. Does he have any adjustment problems at school or emotional problems with siblings that may have lead to reduced consumption of food.
  4. Can you find any psychological factors contributing to poor motivation to eat.


Children may not relish vegetables particularly, green leafy ones and fruits. You should make an effort to motivate the child to eat by serving in different, attractive forms. Consumption of less quantity of food can lead to constipation. Early morning hurry to go to school and lack of sleep and activity can also lead to constipation

Dental caries:

Consumption of sticky sweets can result in dental caries. Brushing the teeth before going to bed and after a meal should become a habit in children. Children should be encouraged to eat hard raw crisp foods.

Packed Lunches

Packed lunches is a necessity for school going children if the school is away from home or the lunch period is too short for them to go home. The packed lunch is a lunch that is packed in a tiffin box to be eaten by the child while away from home. It can be with one compartment or two or sometimes having more than 3 compartments.

Points to be considered in planning a packed lunch:

  1. The meal should meet one third of the daily caloric and protein requirement of your child.
  2. As far as possible try and include all 5 food groups in the lunch, though the number of dishes may be less.
  3. Inclusion of one serving of green leafy vegetables would take care of one-third of the requirement of many vitamins and minerals.
  4. Use good quality protein like milk or milk product like curd or paneer. Combine vegetable proteins like cereals and pulses for better utilisation. Eggs improve the quality of protein besides meeting many protective nutrient needs.
  5. To make the food appetising , whole fruit or butter milk in a bottle or chips in a polythene bag can be taken.
  6. Provide variety. Avoid packing same food on successive days. Pack something other than what you served for breakfast.
  7. Take care of food consistency. Too watery things may leak and too dry may not be appetizing to the child. Chapathis can be covered in cloth to retain moisture. Curd rice should be made with cold rice. Hot rice makes the water to separate from the curd.

Suggested packed lunches:

  • Vegetable pulao, boiled egg, tomato raita and orange fruit
  • Fenugreek leaves stuffed chapathi, thick dal and buttermilk
  • Chapathi stuffed with dal(thikada) with green leafy vegetable sag
  • Chapathi, usual and carrot salad
  • Cheese sandwiches or paneer sanwiches, guava
  • Idli and Kurma
  • Dahi bath, tomato or cucumber slices and lemon pickle
  • Kichdi, buttermilk, coriander chutney
  • Sambhar rice, amaranth porial, buttermilk
  • Adai with drumstick leaves and coconut chutney.

While packing a lunch remember:

  • Cool the preparation before packing to avoid spoilage
  • Pack food preparations, which taste good even when these are cold, include some fresh vegetable or fruit, to help moisten the mouth.
  • Pack the vegetable/fruit slices in a plastic bag, to retain fresh flavour and texture
  • Pack only as much as the child can eat happily, so that children learn to value food and do not waste it.

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