The Importance of Childhood Nutrition
From: Healthy Children
Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese. Despite all the focus on kids being overweight and obese, many parents are still confused, especially when it comes to what kids eat. How much does your child need? Is he getting enough calcium? Enough iron? Too much fat?
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, nutrition is important to his or her physical and mental development. Here's what children need — no matter what the age.
It isn't uncommon for a 6- or 7-year-old to suddenly decide to be a vegetarian once they understand animals and where food comes from. This doesn't mean your child won't get enough protein; animal tissue isn't the only place we get protein. Rice, beans, eggs, milk, and peanut butter all have protein. So whether your child goes "no-meat" for a week or for life, he or she will likely still get sufficient amounts of protein.
Areas that might be a little too sufficient are sugars, fats, and sodium.
This is a time when kids first go to school and have a little bit more choices in what they eat, especially if they're getting it in the cafeteria themselves. Cakes, candy, chips, and other snacks might become lunchtime staples.
The body needs carbs (sugars), fats, and sodium, but should be eaten in moderation, as too much can lead to unneeded weight gain and other health problems.
Packing your child's lunch or going over the lunch menu and encouraging him or her to select healthier choices can help keep things on track.
Preteens & Teens
As puberty kicks in, young people need more calories to support the many changes they will experience. Unfortunately, for some, those extra calories come from fast foodor "junk" foods with little nutritional value.
Some adolescents go the opposite way and restrict calories, fats, or carbs. Adolescence is the time kids start to become conscious of their weight and body image, which, for some, can lead to eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors. Parents should be aware of changes in their child's eating patterns and make family dinners a priority at least once or twice a week.