Good nutrition for kids involves not only keeping up with your child’s appetite but making sure you’re meeting their nutritional needs, too. And as any nutritionist will tell you, it means feeding your child a variety of foods from all the food groups says. Children require the same macro-nutrients adults do and a balanced diet will increase the odds that your child is getting the right amount of each.
There’s no universal recommendation for the amount of calories a child needs. Speak with your family doctor to get a specific number appropriate for your child. The exact amount will vary depending on your child’s age, health, weight and activity level, but will likely be around 1,600 per day for 6-7 year olds, according to the Health Canada.
Fats are calorie-dense and essential for children because they promote normal growth and give your child plenty of energy to play. Like calories, the exact amount of fat your child needs depends on her age, weight and activity level. What’s more important is the type of fats you’re serving. Unsaturated fats in foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados should make up the bulk of your child’s fat intake.
This sweet stuff supplies energy, but too much is unhealthy. Added sugar in foods like soda, baked goods and packaged snacks increase the calorie count of the foods. Though your child does need calories, too many can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Limiting your child’s intake of sugary foods is an important way to boost overall health and well-being. Aim for no more than six teaspoons a day of sugar, which is equal to 24 grams.
Good nutrition for kids also means that you should limit your child’s intake of sodium. Too much sodium isn’t good for your child’s heart. The upper limit of sodium is between 1,500 and 1,900 milligrams per day. Skip canned soups, packaged snack foods and fast food to meet this guideline.
Protein requirements for kids is age dependent, from around 15 grams for 1-3 year olds to 42 grams for 11-14 year olds. You should aim to serve a lean protein at each meal such as Lean meat, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds which are all nutritious sources of protein.
Your child should get fibre naturally from food sources because it’s more easily absorbed than foods that have been enriched with fibre or from fibre supplements. Fibre ensures that your child’s heart is healthy and that her digestive system is working well. Adding whole grains, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet is a good way to boost their intake.
The daily recommendation of iron for kids is between seven and 11 milligrams, depending on age and gender. Heme iron, which is present in animal foods, is absorbed the best. Add lean beef, pork, chicken and turkey to your child’s diet to boost intake of heme iron. If your child gets their iron from vegetarian sources, such as beans or fortified grains, make sure they also gets plenty of vitamin C and it helps children absorb non-heme iron from vegetarian sources.
Make sure your child eats plenty of fruits and vegetables so she consumes the 3,000 to 3,800 milligrams of potassium she needs each day. Potassium keeps your child’s heart and muscles in good working order.
In addition to supporting healthy bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for blood clotting and heart and muscle function. Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium and are the most easily absorbed. Milk, yogurt and cheese are all excellent sources to help your child get the 700 to 1,300 milligrams they need each day.
When it comes to ensuring that your child is getting plenty of vitamins A, C, D, K and all the B vitamins, balance is key. Serving your child a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and dairy foods will ensure that your child is getting each of these key nutrients. Again, keep in mind that these vitamins should come from food and not supplements.
When planning your child’s diet, ensure to get your childcare on board to ensure consistency.