Is your child fasting for Ramadan? Some parents may wonder if their child has the nutritional intake they require daily. From ages 1 to 10, children undergo a significant increase in physical and mind development, and thus need a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fibre, in the required amounts. Each of these nutrients have a vital role in the all-round growth and development of children.
We get some tips from Dr. Nina Mazera Mohd Said, the Medical Director of Abbott Nutrition in Malaysia. She has over 10 years of working experience in the pharmaceutical industry and close to 10 years of clinical service in hospitals in the Ministry of Health Malaysia and in NHS Trust Hospitals in the United Kingdom.
What are your main tips for parents of children who are fasting?
As children grow, their nutritional intake is important. Even more so, for children who are fasting or beginning to fast the safe and healthy way. Children have higher nutritional requirements to support growth and development. Parents need to keep in mind that they should always provide their children with complete and balanced nutrition to ensure that they continue to grow well, even while fasting.
Can all children fast?
Fasting for children, including when to start, is a parent’s decision.
It is important to keep in mind though the child’s nutritional requirements as they fast. The compulsory age to start full day fasting is during puberty (akil baligh). However, we have seen many parents who choose to encourage their little ones to start as early as between 5 to 7 years old, from skipping one meal to a half-day fast, in order to prepare them for their full-day fast eventually.
What are the best meals for them to ‘sahur’ with?
A balanced diet during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period. Parents can use the Food Pyramid as a guide to assess their children’s nutrient intake on a daily basis, and they can plan their children’s daily meals by following the My Healthy Plate concept, which shows what to eat in the right amounts for each meal.
A balanced diet must contain a sufficient amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fibre in the required amounts. Each of these nutrients has a vital role in the all-round growth and development of children.
- Carbohydrate: Provides a source of energy. In a child’s active lifestyle, carbohydrates are a vital source of energy to keep them active.
- Protein: Required for growth and repair. In years of rapid growth, children need proteins in adequate amounts for optimal growth.
- Fat: Provides a supplementary source of energy and are required for absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
- Vitamins: Required in very small quantities to keep your child healthy.
- Minerals: Required for healthy teeth, bones and muscles. Significant development of teeth, bones and muscles happens by 10 years of age.
- Fibre: Helps maintain a good intestinal function. Fibre is not digestible and helps in bowel movement.
What should we avoid in the children’s meals?
Children may turn to their favourite food and snacks which may not provide the daily recommended nutrient intake needed. Parents may consider including noodles or pasta as the source of carbohydrates, fish, meat and chicken as the source of protein, fruits and vegetable as the source of fiber, vitamins & minerals together with a glass of milk, using the correct proportion as indicated on the healthy plate, in their child’s daily meals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.
Is there anything else we should be mindful of with children who are fasting?
During Ramadhan, lack of nutritious food for sahur can lead to tiredness and hunger in children throughout the day. A balanced diet during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period. Parents need to keep in mind that they should always provide their children with complete and balanced nutrition to ensure that they grow well.
If their children are picky-eaters, parents can provide them with a complete nutritional supplement to ensure that they receive the essential nutrients that would support their growth and development.
Are there things we should watch out for to make sure they are handling the fast fine?
A balanced diet and proper nutrition during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period.
Keeping a close eye on their child’s energy levels throughout the day, and making the nutritional adjustments in their meals to help them carry out their fast are some of the things parents can do as their child fasts.
How can I, as a parent, make fasting for them a smooth and even fun experience for my children?
PediaSure has launched a Ramadan nutritional journal this year to encourage children to fast and monitor their achievement. From the journal, parents and children can get tips on the types of food recommended for sahur and buka puasa, suitable activities and monitor sleep patterns during Ramadhan.
In conjunction with Ramadan, PediaSure also launched five educational web video series with Imam Muda Asyraf, that parents and children can watch together to learn more about the challenges little ones face during the fasting period and how to overcome them. Parents can visit https://pediasure.com.my/ramadan-bersama-pediasure to watch the web video series ‘5 Ujian Si Kecil di Bulan Ramadan’.