Growing and active kids need plenty of energy and nutrients to stay active and grow properly. This means getting a well balanced diet that is packed full of healthy foods and nutrients. Here is a look at how you should be feeding your child.
- Fruits and Veggies: You should aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for your child. A variety of these should be offered throughout the day. Fresh fruits are often popular choices, and veggies can be hidden in sauces, soups, and stews.
- Whole Grain: The processing of white bread takes out most of the healthy nutrients found in grains. Choose 100% whole grain breads early on for kids. Pasta is a great choice for energy, and serving whole grain with tomato sauce helps to meet a vegetable requirement as well. Unsweetened cereals and popcorn can help give your child the grains he or she needs.
- Dairy: Milk is a great drink choice for kids for both the protein and the calcium. Low-fat yogurt is another great option, particularly if you get plain and add your own fresh fruit selections to it. If lactose intolerance is a problem, soy milk can be a good alternative.
- Protein: Active kids have active muscles, and protein is needed to help muscles grow and get stronger. Lean cuts of meat should be chosen over fattier cuts, and baking or grilling is preferred over frying. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, quick and easy to prepare, and enjoyed by many children. For vegetarians, beans, grains, nuts and soy/tofu products can provide protein without the saturated fat.
- Plenty of Fluids: Active children can quickly become dehydrated. Teach kids to drink before they are thirsty, particularly when they are actively playing or exercising. Water is the best choice for hydration. Save the milk and juice for meals.
Children, like adults, benefit from eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. However, parents need to avoid high fat and high sugar snacks. Whole grain crackers, low fat cheese or yogurt, and fresh fruit and veggies make excellent snack choices to help give your child enough energy to get through the day.
What To Avoid
Moderation is KEY. While a large chocolate cupcake is bad when eaten every day (or every other day!) for the occasional birthday celebration there is nothing wrong with enjoying a treat. Fast foods, fried foods, and junk foods should all be consumed in limited amounts. Also to be avoided are large amounts of fruit juices, especially those from concentrate, since they tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutrition. When you do serve it, mix it half-and-half with cold water- you'll get flavor and hydration in one gulp. Whenever possible, offering fresh foods over processed is the healthier choice. Try to keep it simple- kid friendly foods are often pretty basic. Keep seasoning to a minimum and offer only a few choices to make meal planning easier on you and your kids.
Giving your child a healthy diet will not only help them to grow and stay active, but it will also put them on a path for healthy eating for the rest of their lives.