Healthy eating for kids involves more than just getting them to eat their veggies. Each stage of childhood has different nutritional requirements to ensure good health. Parents need to be aware of these requirements so they can be sure their kids are getting the nutrition they need.
Toddlers & Young Children – means a lot of calcium to promote strong healthy teeth and bones. They need 3 servings a day which amounts to at least 1 pint of whole milk every day. You can substitute yogurt, cheeses and milk puddings if your child will eat these easier than drinking milk. They also need 2 servings of protein and 2 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. 4 daily servings of whole grains are also required. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Serve their sandwiches on whole grain bread, make whole grain pancakes, serve brown rice and make multi-grain toast for them.
School-age Children – shows some changes from the nutritional requirements of younger children. School-age children don’t need whole milk – they do fine on low-fat milk, but they still need 2 to 3 servings of dairy (can include yogurt or cheeses) every day. For protein they need to eat 2 to 3 servings of meat (2-3 ounces each) every day. You can substitute an egg, peanut butter, or beans in place of a serving of meat if you prefer. They need 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 servings of fruit daily. Hopefully your child has developed healthy eating for kids while a toddler so this will not be too difficult to get them to eat this variety. The biggest change is that this age group needs to consume 6 to 11 servings of whole grains every day.
Teenagers – is probably the most difficult age group to get to eat properly. Teenagers usually have very definite ideas of what they want to eat and you may have to work hard to find ways to get them to eat nutritiously. Teens need 45 to 60 grams of protein and 1200 mg of calcium every day for good health. They also need iron at this time of their lives: boys need 12 mg and girls need 15 mg. They have a high calorie requirement because they are growing so much during this phase. You probably won’t have much trouble getting your boys to eat 2500 – 2800 calories but girls need 2200 calories and they usually are “dieting”. Try to maintain a good self-image for your girls and get them to eat healthily. They will be surprised to find that they not only won’t gain weight on a healthy diet but may actually lose some extra pounds gained from eating too much fast food and sweets.
As you can see, healthy eating for kids can be a challenge but with menus that include a variety of healthy foods, it can be accomplished and even be fun for your children.