About 1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese. However, with all this perspective on overweight and obese children, many parents are still confused, especially when it is related to what children eat. How much does your child need to eat? Is he/she getting enough calcium? Is he/she getting enough iron? Is he/she eating too many fats?
Whether you have a young child or a teenager, nutrition is important for both mental and physical development. Here's what kids need to eat at any age.
At this stage of life, almost everything is related to milk, whether it is breast milk, formula milk or a combination of both. Breast milk or formula milk will provide practically all the nutrients a baby needs in the first year of life.
• Around six months, most babies are ready to start with solid foods like fortified cereal for babies with iron, fruits and vegetables, and mashed meat. Because breast milk does not provide enough iron and zinc when babies are around six to nine months of age, fortified cereals and meats can help particular nursing babies.
• Once you start adding food, do not obsess about low-fat foods. Although the AAP recently released updated guidelines indicating that restriction of fat in some babies is adequate, in general, it is not recommended to restrict fats before two years of age because a healthy amount of fat is important for the development of the brain and nerves of babies.
Young children and preschoolers
Young children and preschoolers grow in periods of abrupt growth and their appetite comes and goes in those periods, so they can eat all the food one day and the next day almost nothing. This is normal, and as long as you offer them a healthy selection, they will get what they need.
Calcium.-Calcium, a fundamental piece of the body, is necessary to develop healthy and strong bones and teeth. It may be that children do not know or care that milk "makes the body work well," but it is the best source of much needed calcium. There are also options for those babies allergic to milk, lactose intolerant or those who are impartial to milk. Lactose-free milk, soy milk, tofu, sardines, calcium-fortified orange juices, cereals, waffles, and oat are some choices that contain calcium. In some cases the doctor may recommend calcium supplements.
Fiber is another important element. Young children start saying "no" more often and preschoolers can be especially stubborn about what they eat. Children may wish to continue with the soft, beige, starchy diet (chicken pieces, chips, spaghetti), but it is actually time to encourage them to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, which provide fiber. Fiber not only prevents heart disease and other conditions, but also helps digestion and prevents constipation, something that you and your child will appreciate.
Do not be surprised if your child stops eating meat. It is common for a 6 or 7 year-old boy to suddenly decide to be a vegetarian once he understands the subject of animals and where food comes from. This does not mean that he/she will not get enough protein. Animal tissue is not the only source of protein. Rice, beans, eggs, milk, peanut butter contain protein. So if your child "does not eat meat" for a week or never again in life, he/she can still get enough protein.
Areas where little is enough are sugars, fats and sodium.
• This is the time when children go to school for the first time and have more choices about what they eat, especially if they choose food in the cafeteria themselves. Cakes, sweets, fries and other snacks can become staples at lunchtime.
• The body needs carbohydrates (sugars), fats and sodium, but they should be eaten in moderation, because too much can lead to unnecessary weight gain and other health problems.
• Pack your child's lunch or check the lunch menu and encourage him/her to select healthier foods to help him/her maintain control.
Preteens and teens
As puberty begins, young people need more calories to support the changes they have. Unfortunately, for some, these extra calories are obtained from fast food or "junk" with little nutritional value.
• Some teens opt for the opposite and restrict calories, fats or carbohydrates. Adolescence is the time when children begin to be aware of their weight and physical image. For some, it can cause eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors. Parents should be alert to changes in eating patterns and try to make family meals a priority once or twice a week.
• Like calories, calcium requirements are higher. Calcium is more important than ever in the pre-teen years and adolescence because during this time most of the bone mass is formed. Encourage your children to drink milk, dairy products or calcium-rich alternatives, even if it means adding chocolate syrup to milk to make it more appetizing, which will help them ingest more calcium.
• In addition to calories and calcium, your child's sex may play an important role in determining if he/she need more than one particular nutrient. For example, adolescent girls need more iron than boys to replace what they lose during menstruation and children need a little more protein than girls.
Although make your daughter eat healthy, no matter her age, can be a constant battle; it is a fight that is really worth. A healthy child becomes a healthy adult with your support and guidance.
Water: Drink it!
Water makes up more than half of children's body weight and is necessary to keep all parts of the body functioning properly.
• There is no specific amount of water recommended for children, but it is a good idea to give them water throughout the day, not just when they are thirsty.
• Infants generally do not need water in the first year of life.
• If your child does not like the taste of water, add some lemon or lime to flavor it.
• Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water.
• Children should drink more water when they are sick, on a hot day or when they are physically active.
Recommended amount of calories
Here's what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends for kids to get the necessary calories from each food group for a healthy, balanced diet:
Estimated number of calories required per day according to age and sex of child
The estimated number of calories (1) needed to maintain a balance for various combinations of ages and sex. Estimated numbers are rounded to the nearest 200 calories allocated by USDA food standards. The individual caloric requirement may be higher or lower than the average according to the level of activity.
(1) Based on the estimates of the energy requirement equations, using heights and reference weights (averages) for each age group and sex. For children and adolescents, the reference information on height and weight changes.