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Nutrition for Kids: A Guide to the Food Pyramid

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: February 23, 2009
Ascertaining the right nutrition levels for your kids can be difficult, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a Food Guide Pyramid designed especially for young children. However, what exactly does this mean when it comes to nutrition for kids?

The Pyramid’s Foundation

Once they reach about two years of age, nutrition for kids is not much different than the rest of the family. A child should come off of whole milk, and overall meals should be similar to what everyone else is eating. To get good nutrition for kids, kids should ideally eat three meals a day and have two nutritious snacks a day.

In order to have good nutrition for kids, there are also some things that you should limit or avoid. Dairy products, including milk, should be limited to less than 24 ounces a day. Juice should be limited to 6 ounces a day. Foods high in sugar and fat, as well as those that are low in nutrition, should be limited. You also want to make sure that food is given in a form that is age-appropriate. For example, whole grapes may present a choking hazard for young children.

Good nutrition for kids is important to their health. By giving your kids good nutrition, you can avoid numerous health problems. This includes having diseases such as diabetes or obesity. It also means that your child can reach his or her full growth potential.

Besides following the food pyramid, there are some basic things to keep in mind when considering nutrition for kids. These include:

Eat a variety of foods. Remember, eating healthy starts early on, and the sooner you expose new foods, the more readily they will be accepted.

Stay active. Overall nutrition for kids includes physical activity on a daily basis.

Think fresh. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, should be included in the diet on a regular basis.

Avoid fats. Look for foods that are low in fats, especially saturated fat, and that are low in cholesterol.

Moderate sugar and salt.

Think about growing bodies. Good nutrition for kids includes plenty of iron and calcium to take care of their growing bones and muscles.

Set a good example. You cannot sit around and eat cookies all day and expect your kids to enjoy a salad at dinnertime. Put the whole family on a healthy diet, and you will find that good nutrition for kids will come a lot easier. Avoid purchasing high calorie and high fat snacks.

Understanding serving sizes

Another important part of nutrition for kids includes understanding serving sizes. While six servings of grains may sound like a lot, for instance, you might be surprised at how little a serving actually is. You may find that some children need to eat smaller serving sizes as their growth rates fluctuate. If this happens, remember that for proper nutrition, kids need to still eat a variety of sizes, just smaller portions.

Grains – When it comes to nutrition for children, a serving size of grains can be a slice of bread, ½ a cup of cooked cereal, pasta, or rice, or an ounce of cold cereal. Try to have your child eat six servings of grains per day, preferably whole grains.

Vegetables – Your children should eat three servings of vegetables per day. A serving can include a cup of raw leafy vegetables or ½ cup of chopped vegetables.

Fruits – For good nutrition for children, fresh fruit is preferable for children. One piece of fruit counts as a serving. You can also substitute ¾ cup of fruit juice (make sure that it is 100% juice), ½ cup of canned fruit or ¼ cup dried fruit. Aim for two servings a day.

Dairy – Children only need two servings of dairy per day for good nutrition. A serving consists of a cup of milk, a cup of yogurt, or two ounces of cheese.

Proteins – While meat is the obvious choice for proteins, you can still get good nutrition for kids through other sources as well. A serving of protein can come from 2-3 ounces of lean meats or half a cup of beans. An egg or two tablespoons of peanut butter can be used as a half serving of protein. Children should eat two servings of protein per day.

Minimize Fat – Less than 30% of your child’s diet should come from fat, which works out to approximately 53 grams of fat per day or less. Limit the amount of saturated fats whenever possible.

By understanding portion sizes and what elements constitute a healthy diet, you can ensure that you are giving the best nutrition for kids to your beloved children.

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