Being a working mother and caring for the nutritional needs of your growing child is an extremely challenging task. This usually creates daily stress for most mothers on a mental and physical level.
To assist and minimize with the challenges faced I would recommend that you break the process down into the following subcategories; nutritional concerns, constraints and strategies to assist with the task.
Most nutritional concerns vary according to the age (this article focuses on the specific age group of 7-12 year old children), activity level of the child as well as any other preexisting medical conditions.
However, the top three general nutrition concerns that are expressed from working mothers are;
- Is my child eating enough fruit and vegetables?
- Is my child consuming enough food?
- Is my child consuming too much food?
Before we can identify the constraints and strategies to tackle these concerns, one must have an understanding of the nutritional guidelines, which addresses these three questions.
- The Sri Lankan Nutritional Guidelines recommend that the average child between the ages of 7-12 should consume a minimum of 1 cup of fruit per day and a minimum of 1.5 cups of vegetables per day. (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2021).
- The amount of calories your child intakes on a daily basis also depends on the age and activity level of the individual. The Sri Lankan Nutritional Guidelines suggest that on average a moderately active child between the ages of 7 to 12 years should consume between 1600 to 2200 calories per day. (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2021).
- As the recommended calorie intake of a moderately active 7-12 year old is between 1600 and 2200 calories per day, therefore it would be considered over consumption if the child is consuming more than the recommended calories on a daily basis for a prolonged period of time which may lead to overweight or obese body mass index. (S. Ameresekere, 2021).
The main constraints for working mothers is time in the form of food preparation, availability and monitoring of the food quality and quantity. On occasions, the level of food education and support available to mothers may also be a constraint in some cases. (S, Ameresekere. 2021).
Strategies to assist:
- Create a realistic and sustainable timetable/ schedule for the week to prepare meals for the week. This assures that you will be able to provide your child adequate nutritional value.
- Have a support system of trusted people who can assist you during meal times. This may be a family member or hired help who can prepare the food in a timely manner for your child and monitoring their intake if required. However, this is mainly required for the younger age group of 7 and 8 year olds.
- Before your child goes to school, prepare a wholesome breakfast, which has a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and a small amount of fats to ensure they have a balanced meal. A recommendation of approximately 30% protein, 60% carbohydrates and 10% fats are suggested for children. Additional fiber is also recommended to keep your little one fuller for longer and thus assisting with concentration and energy levels. (S, Ameresekere. 2021).
- As hard as it can be for working mothers to juggle the requirements of their children plus a professional working career, know that once a sustainable plan is in place, the stresses do reduce and becomes easier over time. The important thing is to find something that works well for you and your family and this can only take place over time with trial and error.
Mrs. Shayana Ameresekere MHumNutr (Aus) RNutr(Aus)
Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka. (2021). Food-based dietary guidelines - Sri Lanka. Available: http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education/food-dietary-guidelines/regions/countries/sri-lanka/en/. Last accessed 18th April 2021.