Today, feeding children is based on concerns about heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. There is reason to be concerned. More than 20 percent of Western children are overweight with a good chance that 50 to 70 percent of them will remain overweight as adults. It is important for parents to set good examples of healthful eating.
Research shows that children develop eating habits similar to those of their parents. While it is a parent’s job to provide balanced selections from the five food groups, children can be allowed a certain amount of freedom to choose what and how much they eat. Poor eating habits and craving for sugar snacks and fatty foods may develop if parents fail to direct the decision making process. Remember that the issue is not “good foods” versus “bad foods”.
If children balk at food put before them, don’t worry. Studies show children will, over time, eat the amount of food that is right for them if they are offered healthful choices. You cannot expect a child to need to eat broccoli if chips are offered, or drink milk or orange juice when parents are drinking sodas. Of course, an occasional high fat food, gooey dessert, sugary snack, or soda is permissible, provided they are not substitutes for nutritious foods. Parents can make eating a pleasure for the entire family by helping create positive attitudes about food that will lead to a lifetime of good health.
What are the five food groups, and how can we help the entire family eat a balanced diet? The food guide pyramid on this page shows how to select a balanced diet and how to teach your child to make wise choices. How many servings do you need each day?
Calorie level 1,600(Several women and older adults)
2,200(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
2,800(Teen boys and active men)
Bread Group Servings 6(Several women and older adults)
9(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
11(Teen boys and active men)
Vegetable Group Serving 3(Several women and older adults)
4(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
5(Teen boys and active men)
Fruit Group Servings 2(Several women and older adults)
3(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
4(Teen boys and active men)
Milk Group serving 2-3(Several women and older adults)
2-3(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
2-3(Teen boys and active men)
Meat Group Servings 2, for a total of 5 ounces (Several women and older adults)
2, for a total of 6 ounces (Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
3 for a total of 7 ounces(Teen boys and active men)
Total Fat (grams) 53(Several women and older adults)
73(Children, teen girls, active women and most men)
93((Teen boys and active men)
These are the calorie levels if you choose low fat.lean foods from the 5 major food groups and use foods from the fats, oils, and sweets group sparingly. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 need 3 servings. A balanced diet includes food from each of the following food groups:
1. Grains (bread, cereal, rice, and pasta);
2. Fruit (fresh, dried, or unsweetened canned);
3. Vegetables (raw or lightly cooked);
4. Meat (meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs, and nuts); and
5. Dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese).
Offer your children nutritious choices for meals and snacks. This way you can help them control their own diet. For example, you might offer a choice of an apple, an orange, or a banana. With older children (aged 7 and up) you can start by planning a menu together, letting the children check to make sure it includes all five food groups.
Remember that each of the food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients a child needs. Foods in one group cannot replace those in another. No one of these major food groups is more important than another. For good health, all are necessary. What’s for breakfast? Several of us do not eat in the morning. Estimates suggest that up to 25 percent of all school-aged children leave the house without breakfast.
You may think that breakfast is just another meal. For a child, breakfast provides much needed energy (calories) to start the day off right. Adults may be able to make up for skipped breakfast by grabbing something on the way to work or while doing morning errands. Your child, however, does not have that opportunity. A nursery school child mostly has a mid-morning snack 3 to 5 hours after waking up. After nursery school, few children are offered a morning snack. Getting your child to eat breakfast is not always easy. Try to tune into your child’s morning personality. A sleepyhead may need a quick breakfast. An early riser may like to eat breakfast before getting dressed. If this conflicts with your morning schedule, let your children get their own breakfast. Even a 6 year-old can open a container of yogurt.
A good breakfast consists of complex carbohydrates and simple sugars (breads, whole grains, fibre, fruits, and vegetables); proteins (dairy, chicken, beef, fish, eggs, nuts, and dried beans), and any fat. Carbohydrates and simple sugars offer quick energy but leave the stomach quickly. A breakfast of only carbohydrates can give a child mid-morning discomfort. When milk, cheese, yogurt, lean meat, or an egg is added, the food stays in the stomach longer and provides sustained energy.
Physical fitness is a vital part of being healthy. For children, being and staying physically fit can happen with activities they refer to as PLAY! Play that makes them breathe deeply is aerobic exercise. Aerobic activities such as bicycling, jumping rope, roller skating, running, dancing, and swimming can be beneficial if they are done for 12 to 15 minutes without stopping. The young child develops an active lifestyle as he or she begins to creep, crawl, and then walk.
Young children learn how to move in their environment by playing alone in their own personal space. As children grow, they hop, march, run, roll, toss, bounce, and kick. Their bodies are changing in terms of height and weight, and they are beginning to form a self-concept through comparison with others as they move. When play is organized into specific movements, it becomes exercise. For exercise to become part of each day, these movements or activities should meet the interests and needs of your child. Play is the beginning. Children can follow their own paths to lifetime fitness by exercising for fun and at their own pace. Watching too much TV can deprive your child of opportunities to play and exercise. Set a good example. Limit TV watching. Walk to your destination as mainly as possible. Play active games with your child. Help form neighbourhood sports teams and participate in the recreation.
Everyone can exercise. Certain exercises keep your heart and lungs healthy. Strong, flexible muscles can be developed with exercise. As your child achieves fitness through exercise, a growing self-confidence will be another benefit of a fitness routine.
Reducing the risk of disease is a major goal in helping your child grow up healthy. Bacteria and viruses cause disease and sickness, and cleanliness can help prevent the spread of these germs. Sharing such items as a comb, toothbrush, hairbrush, or cup, even among family members, can also spread disease. Having clean clothes and daily baths shows children that being clean not only feels good, but also helps them stay well.
You can teach your children to wash their hands at an early age. Tell your children that skin can stop germs from entering the body, and washing can reduce the risk of infection if your child has a cut or scrape. Explain, too, that harmful germs and viruses can be spread by a sneeze or a cough. Teach your child to stay away from people who are sneezing and coughing. Children can help prevent the spread of disease if they cover their sneezes or coughs with a tissue. Everybody has an internal disease fighting system (immune system) made of antibodies and white blood cells. Your child can help that immune system function well by getting enough sleep, by eating nutritious meals, and by exercising.
Vaccinations also prevent disease and play an important part in helping your child grow up healthy. The idea of having a shot may be frightening to a child. Help your child understand that this vaccination is a medicine that prevents disease. It’s a lot more fun to be playing with friends than to be sick. A vaccination chart for keeping track of immunizations can be found on the inside front cover. The importance of vaccinating children at the appropriate ages cannot be overemphasized.