Getting children to eat healthy foods can sometimes feel like fighting an uphill battle. The leafier and greener the food, the greater the struggle.
Parents play a key role in promoting healthy eating. Right from the start, choosing to breastfeed gives babies a nutritional boost and may help them learn to better regulate their food intake.
Do you know?
A child born today can expect to live 26 years longer than a child born in 1900, but a person who has already reached 45 today can expect to live only four or five years longer than a person born in 1900.
Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages.
Why is Childhood Nutrition Important?
Nutrition is important at every age. Your children need proper nutrients to stay healthy and strong and grow up healthy and strong.
Nutrition for children can also help establish a foundation for healthy eating habits and nutritional knowledge that your child can apply throughout life.
Childhood nutrition involves making sure that children eat healthy foods to help them grow and develop normally, as well as to prevent obesity and future disease.
It is important that children eat three meals a day and not skip breakfast. Studies have shown that children and teens that skip breakfast have more trouble concentrating, do not perform as well in school, and often have later problems with heart disease. Obesity is common in children who skip breakfast.
What nutrients do children need?
The guidelines include selections from different food groups to provide the vitamins and minerals young bodies need for natural growth and activity. However, in this age of what has been called “advanced medicine,” there are those who seek to understand why so many among us, especially children, suffer from so much serious illness.
Each culture over centuries has developed its traditional diet.
To help guide parents and others in making good nutritional choices to keep BMI in line with normal growth and just to keep children healthy, the American Medical Association (AMA) suggests the following food choices for children, based on the USDA guidelines. Here are 5 healthy food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:
• Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole-wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal. Aim for mostly whole-grains.
• Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of colourful vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables and starchy vegetables.
• Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.
• Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
• Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine. Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, legumes (peas and beans).
Children two to five years of age
The AMA and USDA recommend food guidelines for young children similar to those for older children and adults, but with smaller portions. When looking at a range of portion sizes, parents and those who care for young children should choose the smaller portion sizes for children age two or three, and go with a slightly larger portion for children who are age four or five.
Daily recommendations include:
• four to five servings of grains
• two or more servings of vegetables
• two or more servings of fruit
• three to four servings of dairy products
• two or three servings of protein
After age two, a child needs less fat than an infant—about 30% of daily calories.
After age three, the fibre becomes more important in a child’s diet and can impact future heart health.
At age four to eight, Calcium requirements steadily increase from 500 mg a day at age three to 800 mg a day at.
For calcium to be absorbed by the body, it must also have sufficient amounts of vitamins C, D and A. In addition to food sources, an hour of sunshine each day can also provide a child with his/her daily vitamin D requirement.
Children six to twelve years of age
By the time children reach age five or six, they begin to tell parents what foods they like. Parents and those who care for the children can help select foods from each recommended group that a child will enjoy. Calorie requirements and portion sizes increase as children get older: between ages six and ten, boys and girls need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories each day.
Because of puberty and adolescent growth, between ages 10 and 12, girls need about 200 more calories a day. Boys will begin needing about 500 more calories a day after age 12.
The following servings per day are recommended for children ages six to twelve:
• six to 11 servings of grains
• three to five servings of vegetables
• two to four servings of fruit
• three or four servings of dairy products
• two or three servings of protein
Beginning at age nine, calcium requirements continue to rise, from 800 mg a day at ages four to eight to 1,300 mg each day.
Foods Young Children Should Avoid
Infants and young children tend to have weaker immune systems than adults, which makes food poisoning very dangerous for this age group. By making use of safe food handling and preparation guidelines, you can help reduce the risk of spreading food poisoning.
• All unpasteurized foods and beverages, including raw milk and unpasteurized juice and ciders
• Raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs
• Raw or undercooked meat and poultry
• Raw and undercooked fish or shellfish
• Raw sprouts
• Honey, until after the baby’s first birthday because it can harbour spores of toxic bacterium that can cause botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by a bacterium which occurs in soil.
10 Tips For Child Nutrition
1. Teach the importance of good nutrition, and help your children establish healthy eating habits. The more your child understands about nutrition, the more excited he will be about eating healthy.
2. Choose fresh foods over highly processed foods.
3. How you cook and prepare foods can affect the nutritional value. For example, try grilling, steaming, baking, or broiling vegetables instead of frying or boiling them.
4. Drink water or low-fat milk instead of sugary, sweetened drinks.
5. Different foods provide different nutrients, so make sure your child gets a good variety of fruits and vegetables.
6. Encourage children to take their time while eating and to chew well.
7. Make meal and snack periods a time for sitting down – don’t allow children to lay or run and play while eating and drinking.
8. Oils are not a food group, yet some, like nut oils, have vital nutrients and can be included in the diet. Animal fats are solid fats and should be avoided.
9. Exercise and everyday physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary plan.
10. Find nutritious foods that children enjoy, For example, try fruit for dessert.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar