Like an adult, every child needs appropriate amounts of calories, proteins, minerals, and vitamins to grow. The new Food Guide Pyramid Guidelines outline the amount of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and meats or beans people should eat daily.
Children between the ages of four and six can usually have serving sizes recommended for adults, while younger children, who have smaller stomachs and lower nutritional needs, need smaller amounts of food. But apart from consuming the right quantity, parents should keep in mind that exposure to a wide variety of healthful foods early in a child's life can set the stage for more variety later. Since children are often reluctant to try new foods and would be happy eating the same foods every day, the role of the parent is that of a guide towards a healthy and nutritional food lifestyle.
First of all, it is important for growing children to get the full range of important nutrients, especially protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin A. Although appetite variations are considered by experts as normal and might increase during times of rapid growth, or diminish during periods of slow growth, the general rule of thumb is that a 3 year old needs not more than 1,300 calories daily, a 10 year old around 2,000 and an adolescent may require as many as 2,800 depending on the height, weight and daily activity level.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Have always available in the fridge, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that your kids can chew in case they are suddenly hungry or in-between lunches. Remember to keep fruit juice on one service daily since the sugar this drink contains has a lot of ‘hidden' calories. Broccoli, carrots, and vegetables with bright colors, usually attract children's attention and help them fill their stomachs with something healthy instead of a bag of fried potato chips.
- Dairy products: Foods that are rich in calcium are essential for children and adults helping them build and maintain strong bones. Low fat milk and fat-free dairy products should be served daily and kids have to eat cheeses with 2-6 grams of fat per ounce. The needed calcium can also enter your child's organism if he or she consumes orange juice and eats yogurt. Treats made with frozen yogurt and fruits, or milkshakes made with low-fat milk are always welcomed and provide the necessary sweet taste children usually crave.
- Grains: In fact, your child's diet should be based on grains and starches. Whole grain products also contain iron that kids need and whole-wheat bread or pasta can give them the necessary grains for their bodies to function properly.
- Liquids: Remember to serve your child plenty of water and low-fat milk. Avoid sugary sodas and high-fat ice-cream milkshakes.
- Portions: Always serve appropriate portions and weight your kids often. Sugary foods or those containing high-fat ingredients should be generally avoided. Offer healthy snacks, like vegetables, fruits or a ball of whole-grain cereal and allow them to eat crackers with cheese and low-fat chocolate milk.
Finally, you have to check if your child is gaining the normal amount of weight as it grows up and that it exercises often. Outdoor activities and a healthy diet plan are enough to provide your kids with the necessary amount of energy they need and build strong bodies.