Nutrition Guidelines

From the moment your children are born, the one thing you have to constantly look after are their food habits. It starts with breastfeeding, then to solid foods and as they keep growing, the list of things your kids should eat just keeps increasing. However, trouble can arise when the things they just love to eat are certainly not what you can call ‘healthy’.

Parents, therefore, have to keep a constant vigil of their children’s diets. It is best to mold your lifestyle in such a way that nutritious food becomes as tasty and attractive to your kids as burgers or fries. In addition to eating the right foods as set out by the USDA in the Food Pyramid, though, it is also important that your children get the right proportions at every meal.

The Harmful Eating Trend
By the age of 5, kids usually have a fair idea about their likes and dislikes. They are also influenced by a lot of other things, like friends and television, apart from their parents telling them what to eat or not to eat. This increased choice, along with more junk food commercials aimed at kids and the ease with which food is available nowadays, has lead to the drastic effect of kids being almost addicted to junk food.

A healthy, nutritious breakfast is often overlooked these days, which means many kids are going to school hungry or without the proper nutrition to keep them fueled until lunch. With today’s busy lifestyle, parents also don’t have as much time to cook meals from scratch, resulting in a reliance on packaged meals or take out. Although these meals may be quick, they are often loaded with fat, empty calories and have very little nutritional value. Plus, they send the wrong messages about healthy food choices to your children.

Dairy products, fruits, and vegetables have now become ‘uncool’ for kids. Given a choice, it is more likely that your child will gobble up 2 to 3 cookies rather than pick up a tasty apple or orange. Unfortunately, the effects of this fast diet trend are starting to be seen everywhere. Obesity and childhood diabetes rates have dramatically risen in the last few years, while a poor diet has been linked to everything from fatigue and mood swings to violence. Because eating habits are formed early in life, a childhood of poor eating will likely continue into adulthood, where it can put an individual at increased risk of heart problems, bone and skeletal troubles, diabetes, and certain cancers. This is why it is important to help your child develop healthy eating habits now.

How Dietary Guidelines can Help
Your role in introducing your little one to the wide variety of good food is very important. While you may not like their attraction towards junk food, a strict no from your end will not be very effective for too long. Therefore, you just need to make healthy eating a habit.

Now, you may know all about the importance of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, and the other vitamins and minerals, but do you know what quantity of each nutrient is needed by your child? Knowing just what your child needs can be complicated, as a 5-year-old will have different nutritional needs than your teenager or even 10-year-old. Additionally, your child’s sex can also affect just how much of the various nutrients she will need. But don’t fret: it is for just this reason that a nutritional guideline was established.

Guideline for Kids Aged 5 to 8
Being familiar with the food pyramid is a good way to start discriminating between different food products and dividing them into broad categories. Once this is done, you need to figure out a rough estimate of the daily intake for your child from each food group.

Girls between the ages of 5 and 8 need, on an average, 1200 calories daily while boys will need about 1400 calories daily. However, if your child is more active physically, you may want to add between 100 and 200 calories. If she is extremely active, you may want to consider increasing her calorie intake even more to make she has enough energy throughout the day.

These calories should be made up with following number of servings from each food group:

    Grains and cereals: It is always better to opt for whole grains, such as whole wheat breads and oatmeal, than processed grains, like white bread. Make sure a large portion of the grains come from these. Kids should be given between 4 to 5 servings of grains every day. One serving may include:

    • 1 slice bread
    • ½ cup of cooked cereals
    • ½ cup rice
    • ½ cup pasta
    • 4-5 saltines
    • 1-cup cold cereals

    Fruits: Fruits are a great source of minerals, vitamins and fiber. And with different fruits being in season at different times of the year, there is always something to keep your little one interested. Proper child nutrition at this age should include a total of 1 to 1 ½ cup of fruits every day. A serving may include small apple, banana, or 4-5 strawberries. Also, try to include more citrus fruits, like oranges, which are a good source of vitamin C.

    Vegetables: Vegetables are a must to build stronger muscles, healthier bodies, encourage good eyesight and active brains, and improve blood circulation. Serve a total of 1 to 1 ½ cup of veggies each day, which can include carrots, spinach, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, and broccoli. You can also make soups to add to the variety.

    Milk and other dairy products: Milk is a rich source of calcium, essential for building strong bones. Therefore, ensure that your child drinks 2 to 3 cups of milk every day. If milk is not particularly a favorite, you can give him ½ cup yogurt or calcium fortified orange juice for each ½ cup of milk. Cheese is also a good source of calcium.

    It is always better to go for the low fat milk in this age as your child may have a tendency to gain weight due to saturated fats and cholesterol.

    Meat, beans, and nuts: This food group is a good source of minerals and proteins but be careful to choose lean meat instead of the fatter version. A daily intake of 3 to 4 oz is good for kids. One serving can include an egg, an ounce of meat, fish or chicken, peanut butter, ¼ cup beans or tofu. After school, you can also give a handful of nuts or seeds to a hungry child.

Guideline for Kids Aged 9 or Above
The per day calorie intake of kids must increase with age. While girls between 9 and 13 need about 1400 calories, those in their teens need as much as 1800 calories every day. Similarly, boys 9 to 13 need 1800 calories daily and 2200 calories daily for those between 14 and 18. While this is a lot of calories, the amount of calories from fat should make up only 25% to 30% of the total number of calories.

Just as the calorie requirements increase, so do the daily serving amounts of each food group:

    Cereals: 5 to 6 oz for 9-13 year olds and 6-7 oz for 14-18 years old
    Fruits: 1½ to 2 cups every day
    Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups daily
    Milk and dairy products: 3 cups essentially. Women need more calcium than men as their bones tend to become weak earlier, so insist your daughter get her daily serving of calcium everyday.
    Meat and beans: 5 to 6 oz daily

Healthy Eating Tips

  • Limit buying drinks with added sugar, especially sodas
  • Eat whole grain bread and cereal instead of refined foods
  • Limit the use of rich sauces, like cheese sauce and creamy salad dressings
  • Make eating fish a regular affair, as it is often healthier and lower in fat than red meat
  • Remove the skin of chicken before cooking
  • Choose lean meat products whenever possible
  • Substitute vegetable oil for solid fats while cooking
  • Prepared food may have a high salt content so choose other alternatives, like herbs, to season food
  • Control portion sizes, not just for kids, but everyone in the family
  • Learn to buy more fruits instead of snacks like wafers, ice cream, and cookies
  • Get your child involved in some form of exercise daily
  • Try to make a variety of dishes from the same product
  • Have regular family meals

These simple guidelines can definitely help you give your child a healthier, better way of life.