Children Eating Healthy

Children Eating Healthy

It's not an exaggeration to say that providing a healthy diet for your children is one of the most important things you can do for their future. It is safe to say that, the food patterns you establish for your children while they are young, will have a life-long effect on their health and wellness.

Is counting calories part of children eating healthy?

A child’s growth and development is largely dependent on whether or not they receive a proper diet which includes all the nutrients they need in the appropriate amounts for their gender, age and activity level.

After the first year, gains in weight and height will be fairly steady with a few growth spurts as they approach adolescence. Although individual calorie needs may vary during this period, here is a general calorie guideline to help you plan your child’s diet.

Keep in mind that the lower number is for children who are not very active and females, and the higher number is for very active children and males, with all of the variations in between. Boys generally require about 15% more calories than girls.

These are only guidelines and not a strict requirement.

2-3 year olds 1,000-1,400 calories each day

4-8 year olds 1,200-2,000 calories each day

9-13 year olds 1,600-2,600 calories each day

-One easy way to make sure your child is getting a variety of nutrients is to include at least three different food groups with each meal and two with snacks.
-Mix and match the food groups so that you include several servings from each throughout the day.

-Snacks are also an important part of your children's diet, so make them count towards the day’s nutritional needs.

Another way to look at planning for children eating healthy

If you dislike counting calories, another way to look at the daily food requirements for kids is to consider the five food groups. These include Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Dairy and Protein. Ideally, your kids should be eating foods from all of these food groups each day, with a focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with dairy and protein foods as part of each meal.

Fats are important, too.

Although fats are not listed here as a food group, they do play a role in children eating healthy. It is usually recommended that fat intake not exceed around 30% of a child’s total calorie intake, with an emphasis on unsaturated oils, nut butters (not for very young children), and fish.

There is some disagreement among experts about whether children should be given low fat or non-fat dairy products, especially when they are very young, but if they are getting enough fat from other sources this should not be a problem. It is almost never advisable to put children on an extremely low-fat diet, since they need enough fat in their diet for proper growth and development.

Fiber is not just for adults.

The fiber in many carbohydrate foods contributes to a healthy colon and decreased exposure to harmful toxins. It also is important in promoting good digestion and elimination. Sufficient fiber in the diet has also been associated with decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and irritable bowel syndrome.

Kids need less fiber than adults, depending on their age. A rule of thumb for determining the amount of fiber a child needs is “age-plus-five,” meaning add five to the child’s age to determine the amount of fiber they need. (i.e. an eight-year-old would need about 13 grams of fiber [8+5] each day.)

School-age children are particularly vulnerable to problems associated with skipping breakfast, since it will affect their ability to concentrate and learn new concepts as well as make them more susceptible to any sickness among their classmates.

Do children eating healthy skip meals?

Since children are developing at an amazing rate, they use up nutrients very quickly. Each meal and snack throughout the day is important in maintaining a steady flow of energy and nutrition that the child needs to grow, learn and avoid sickness. For this reason, skipping meals should not be a common occurrence in your child’s life.

Breakfast, in particular, is vital, since they will need to replenish their store of nutrients after a night’s sleep.

What does a healthy child look like?

There are certain signs you can look for to assure you that your child is well nourished.

--Does the child seem cooperative, cheerful and engaged, at least much of the time?

--Is the child growing taller and putting on weight proportionate with his height? 

--Are the child’s teeth white and firmly attached to his/her gums?

--Is the child’s hair shiny and firmly attached to his/her scalp?

--Does the child have bright eyes that properly adjust to changes in light?

--Does the child have good muscle tone and posture?

--Is the child’s tongue red and bumpy?

--Does the child digest food well, have a regular heart beat and good reflexes?

--Is the child’s skin firm and smooth with a healthy color, free of dryness or scaliness?

If you answered yes to these questions, your child is most likely eating a healthy diet.

However, if you answered no to one or more of them, you may want to examine your child’s eating habits or consult a health care professional to determine if there is a nutrient deficiency. 

Childhood obesity on the rise

There is no doubt that obesity has become a serious health problem in our society, but it is particularly distressing to hear that this problem is affecting the most vulnerable in the population—our children. It is sad to say that, even with all our scientific and medical advances, this current generation of children will be the first group who may not live longer, healthier lives than their parents.

Obesity related disorders, such as High blood Pressure and Type II Diabetes, are being diagnosed at younger and younger ages. In addition, overweight kids are experiencing problems that used to be associated only with adults, including joint pain, heart problems and even social isolation.

Click here for a child obesity prevention list.

Tips for children eating healthy

Here are some tips to help you make sure your kids are eating healthy:

-Take your child for a physical check-up with a pediatrician to rule out any problems.

-Limit or eliminate, soda and sugary fruit drinks, from your children's diet, and encourage them to drink water instead. 

-Model healthy eating habits, by choosing healthy foods yourself.

-Make healthy eating fun by creating attractive and even whimsical menu items.

-Eat together as a family whenever you can. A recent study showed a connection between the decline of family meals and the increase in childhood obesity.

-Resist rewarding your kids with sugary treats, but reward them instead with attention and other non-food incentives.

-Eat more meals at home, since fast food is generally loaded with unhealthy fat-and empty calories.

-Educate yourself and your children about which foods are healthy, along with the matchless benefits of healthy eating.

Children Eating Healthy - Simply speaking!

In simple terms, healthy eating for children involves providing your kids with a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups on a daily basis. Helping them to choose and enjoy foods that are good for them will give them a unbeatable advantage as they grow up and take on the challenges of their adult lives.

Click here to go from Children Eating Healthy page to What is Metabolic Syndrome page.