The same principles apply to nutrition for children as for adults. All people require the same nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate, protein, and fat. However, children need different amounts of certain nutrients at different ages.
What is the best way to help your child grow and develop? These nutrition basics are for boys and girls at different ages. They are based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
These are nutrient-dense foods to consider:
- Protein: You can choose seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs and beans, as well as soy products and unsalted nuts.
- Fruits: Encourage your child’s choice of fresh, canned or frozen fruits, rather than just fruit juice. Limit your child’s intake of juice. You should look for canned fruit that is either light-colored or has been packed in its own juice. This will indicate it is low in added sugar. Remember that one quarter cup of dried fruit is equal to one cup. Dried fruits can add extra calories to your diet if you eat too much.
- Vegetables: You can serve a variety fresh, canned, frozen, or dried vegetables. Each week, offer a variety of vegetables including beans, peas, beans, and other starchy options. Look for lower sodium options when choosing canned or frozen vegetables.
- Grains: Whole grains such as whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa and brown or wild rice are better choices than refined ones. Restrict refined grains like white bread, pasta, and rice.
- Dairy:Encourage your child’s consumption of fat-free and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy drinks.
Limit your child’s intake of calories from the following:
- Sugar added: Reduce added sugars. Added sugars are not allowed for naturally occurring sugars such as milk and fruit. Brown sugar, corn syrup and honey are all examples of added sugars. Always read nutrition labels. Look for cereals that have minimal added sugars. Avoid soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks that contain added sugars.
- Trans and saturated fats: Saturated fats are fats that are primarily derived from animal products, such as red meat and poultry, should be limited. You can replace saturated fats by vegetable and nut oil, which provides essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and is also found in avocados, olives, and seafood. Avoid foods that are partially hydrogenated oil to reduce trans fats.
- Sodium: The majority of children in America consume too much sodium. Instead of snacking on chips and cookies, encourage children to eat fruits and vegetables. Look out for products that are low in sodium.