It’s often said that health starts in the kitchen, and this is especially true when it comes to children. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients – carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. However, kids need different amounts of these nutrients as they get older, so it’s important to understand how to fuel their developing bodies and set them up for lifelong nutritional success.
Age-Related Nutritional Guidelines
Kids go through rapid periods of development throughout childhood. During growth spurts, you can expect your child’s appetite to increase, as their body is using more energy to build tissue. That said, children have basic caloric needs that parents should strive to fulfill to encourage optimal growth and keep their weight in the healthy range. Here are some daily nutritional guidelines:
|2 to 3 (boys and girls)||1,000 to 1,400||2 to 4 ounces||1 to 1.5 cups||1 to 1.5 cups||3 to 5 ounces||2 cups|
|4 to 8 (boys)||1,200 to 2,000||3 to 5.5 ounces||1 to 2 cups||1.5 to 2.5 cups||4 to 6 ounces||2.5 cups|
|4 to 8 (girls)||1,200 to 1,800||3 to 5 ounces||1 to 1.5 cups||1.5 to 2.5 cups||4 to 6 ounces||2.5 cups|
|9 to 13 (boys)||1,600 to 2,600||5 to 6.5 ounces||1.5 to 2 cups||2 to 3.5 cups||5 to 9 ounces||3 cups|
|9 to 13 (girls)||1,400 to 2,200||4 to 6 ounces||1.5 to 2 cups||1.5 to 3 cups||5 to 7 ounces||3 cups|
Helping Your Child Make Healthy Choices
Many children are picky eaters, especially as toddlers. Foods that are bitter, like many vegetables, aren’t always appealing to youngsters. However, the earlier you begin exposing new foods to your child, the more likely they are to eventually enjoy them.
As a parent, what you eat also matters. Your child will look at what’s on your plate as a model for what they should eat. If you eat a well-balanced diet packed with lean protein, whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables, your child will understand that they should be eating that way, too.
Because low-carb ketogenic and paleo diets have seen a recent surge in popularity, many adults believe that cutting carbs is a solution for weight loss and optimal health. But carbs aren’t all bad – many have important health benefits, especially for growing children.
There are three main types of carbs:
- Fiber – a complex carbohydrate that occurs in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- Starch – a complex carbohydrate found naturally in vegetables, grains and legumes.
- Sugar – the simplest carbohydrate form found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Types of sugar include fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and sucrose (table sugar).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs make up no more than 45 to 65 percent of a child’s daily intake. A 6-year-old girl eating 1,200 calories should consume about 130 grams of carbs per day. The type of carb is just as important as the amount. You should limit refined grains and foods with added sugar and instead focus on nutrient-dense options, such as:
- Dairy – low-fat and fat-free products, like cheese, milk and yogurt
- Fruits – fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits with no added sugar, such as apples, bananas, berries, grapes and oranges
- Grains – whole, unrefined grains, including brown rice, oatmeal quinoa and whole wheat bread
- Vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned or dried vegetables, such as carrots, leafy greens, peas, potatoes and tomatoes
When you think of protein, you may picture a juicy steak or a scrambled egg, but protein is found in many foods – not just animal products.
Other than water, proteins are the most abundant chemicals in the human body. They serve many functions, such as providing structure to cells and tissues, regulating metabolism and aiding the immune system.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests children ages 4 to 13 obtain 10 to 30 percent of their calories from protein, or about 19 to 34 grams per day. The most nutrient-dense sources of protein include:
- Dairy – low-fat or fat-free products, such as cheese, Greek yogurt and milk
- Meat – lean beef or pork, poultry and seafood
- Plants – beans, peas, unsalted nuts and seeds
Dietary fat is often demonized, but it has its place in a healthy diet. It’s the most calorie-dense of the three macronutrients – nine calories per gram – so it should be limited to 25 to 35 percent of your child’s daily diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The type of fat your child eats is important. Saturated fats, often found in red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products, should be limited. Trans fats, which are used in processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oil, should be avoided. Instead, focus on unsaturated fats, which are commonly found in avocados, nuts, olives and seafood.
Holistic Health at Any Age in Sarasota, FL
Lifetime health habits begin in childhood. If you never learned how to eat healthfully or are struggling to get back on track, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. The compassionate team at Dees Integrative Health can help you achieve your goals through our customized weight loss program. We use the latest nutritional and physiological research to deliver fast, effective results.
Call 941.552.6686 or schedule your consultation online today.