Getting the necessary nutrients is necessary for long-term health. Having basic information about the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for your children — and what they shouldn't eat regularly — can establish healthy habits to last a lifetime.
Essential Foods for Kids: Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, professor and chief of the section of neonatology at the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia, says children's daily caloric intake, which provides them energy, "should be balanced between carbohydrates and protein, with the remaining energy coming from good fats." Children also need iron, vitamin D, calcium, and fiber, but these four tend to be lacking in youngsters' diets, he says.
Iron, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Fiber
Here is some guidance on where to find these kid-elusive dietary components:
* Iron comes from meats, beans, green vegetables, and fortified cereals.
* Vitamin D is derived from sunlight, fish oil, eggs, dairy products, and fortified cereals.
* Calcium can be found in milk and other dairy products.
* Fiber, one of the most forgotten of the nutrients, according to Dr. Bhatia, comes from eating unrefined carbohydrates such as fresh fruit and beans.
For children over 2 years of age, 50 percent to 60 percent of their RDA should come from carbohydrates. The key is to stay away from refined carbohydrates, such as white rice and white flour, which cause the body's energy level to spike and then drop, and may also lead to diabetes and heart disease. Instead, introduce your children to these unrefined foods:
* Brown rice
* Whole-grain cereals and bread
* Low-fat dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt
Protein should make up about 12 percent of your child's RDA and should come from the following:
* Lean meats
Fats should make up about 30 percent of your child's RDA. Most of the fat in your child’s diet should be from sources of "good fat," which raise levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). These fats include:
* Vegetable oils such as olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil
* Fatty fish such as salmon
It's important to pay attention to your child's portion sizes. "The food guide pyramid is best for determining how many servings a child would need depending on age, weight, and gender," says Janet M. de Jesus, MS, RD, a nutrition education specialist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children 2 to 3 years old should consume no more than 1,000 calories each day; girls 4 to 8 should consume about 1,200 and boys of the same age 1,400. Girls between 9 and 13 should get about 1,600 calories daily and boys 1,800. Girls 14 to 18 should aim for approximately 1,800 and boys should shoot for around 2,200. These calories should include:
* 2 to 3 cups of low-fat milk
* 2 to 5 ounces of lean meat or beans
* 1 to 2 cups of fruit
* 1 to 3 cups of vegetables
* 2 to 7 ounces of whole grains
Setting an Example: "Being a role model is very important — your kids are really watching you more than you think," says de Jesus. "Also key is the availability of certain foods in the house. Have fruits and vegetables around as much as possible and serve them at every meal." The more accustomed children are to eating these foods, the more likely they are to develop a lifelong habit of healthy eating.
Source: 'Everyday Health'