food guide children under 5-yrs

Food Based Guidelines For Sri Lankan Children Under 5 Years of Age

Expert Stories | Mrs. Shayana Ameresekere MHumNutr (Aus), RNutr (Aus), Nutritionist

Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) provide the general public and professionals recommendations for nutrient consumption on a country specific level. These recommendations are made to help promote the overall health of the population and prevent chronic diseases. As parents of young children, the FBDG’s give us a sound understanding of what we should strive to provide our children on a daily basis.

Having the right nutrient consumption from a young age may assist in immunity levels, help to achieve developmental milestones and optimise your child's overall health. (Source:

Given the current global situation of the COVID-19 pandemic is it an important time to assess if you are providing your child with sufficient nutrients to help maximise their immunity. Undernutrition is well understood to hinder the immune function of children, whether this is as a result of poor eating habits, shortages of food supply or lack of food education.

Micronutrients and dietary components have a very specific role in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout a child’s life.

Vitamin A, D, B6, B12, folate, iron and zinc regulate the production and the development of new immune cells, which are essential for a strong defence system against foreign organisms. (Source:

Furthermore, antioxidant nutrientssuch as vitamin C, E as well asthe mineralsiron,zinc, copper and selenium may protect immune cells from stress caused by foreign bodies. (Source:

Currently Sri Lanka is revising and updating the recommended dietary guidelines based on the situational analysis of health and nutrition of the country. If the public follows these guidelines positively and progressively, Sri Lanka may achieve a higher level of health statusin the next 5 to 10 years. This meansfoodbased guidelines are important on a microlevel for your family but also on a macro level for the country as a whole. (Source:

The relevant current FBDGs recommendations for Sri Lankan children up to the age of 5 years are as follows:

  1. Eat a variety of food from different food groups every day. Such as grains, rice, wheat, corn, yams and other starchy fruits for carbohydrates. Fruits that are preferably seasonal and dark green leafy vegetables such as kankun, mukunuwenna, sarana, katuru-murunga, drumstick murunga and spinach.
  2. Eat cereal based foods 2-3 times a day. Over generations, rice has been consumed as the staple diet and taking rice and other cereals up to three times a day fulfils the majority of energy requirements. Recommended cereals are rice, millet, maize, kurakkan and wheat.
  3. Limit salt and sugar intake. Added salt and sugar intake should be no more than 5mg (each) per day.
  4. Consume fish pulses, meat and eggs as a good source of protein at least twice a day.
  5. Eat naturally occurring foods as opposed to processed foods.
  6. Drink plenty of water approximately 1.5L per day for preschool aged children.
  7. Consume oils and fats in moderation. Trans fat should be avoided as much as possible. Fats should make up 15% of your child’s energy intake.
  8. Consume dairy products such as cheese, milk, yoghurts and other cultured dairy food at least once a day. (Source:

If the above recommendations are adhered to a parent can ensure they are providing sufficient nutrient support for their child’s development, strength and growth.