Handy guidelines for healthy kids

The United States Department of Agriculture created a food pyramid of daily guidelines for kids. (It's available online at mypyramid.gov, although the guidelines are only applicable for children age two and up.) Some nutritionists feel the government should have been more strict; for instance, requiring all, not just some, of the grains to be whole grains, insisting on reduced fat when recommending milk and dairy products, and completely restricting sodas and sports drinks, rather than labeling them as drinks to be used occasionally. Essentially, a child's daily diet should be composed mostly of calories from complex carbohydrates and lean proteins and no more than 20 percent of calories from fat. Here are particulars about each category of food and the specific daily nutritional breakdown for preschoolers, elementary school children, and teenagers all derived from the U.S.D.A. and Institute of Medicine.

Daily Foods
Opt for bright and dark veggies. Spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots are great choices. Starchy, whiter foods, such as baking potatoes and corn have lesser nutrients.
Fruits: Choose vitamin-rich fresh fruits, such as strawberries, peaches, mangoes and apples. Fruit juices should be consumed as little as possible. When offering juice, make sure it is 100 percent real fruit juice with no sugar added.
Grains: Use whole or multigrain flours, whole-grain breads, oatmeal, whole-grain low-sugar cereals, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Ban white bread and white rice from your house as much as possible.
Meats and Beans: Serve lean proteins every day, such as beef, pork, chicken, fish, beans, tofu, or eggs. When preparing any protein-rich food, opt to serve it steamed, baked or grilled, not fried.
Dairy: Serve lean sources of dairy, such as low-fat milk (check with your doctor to determine whether your child should have whole or reduced-fat milk), low-fat yogurt, ricotta, or cheese.
Oils: Use healthy oils, such as olive-preferably extra-virgin-safflower and vegetable oils. They provide vitamin E for healthy skin.
Fats and sweets: Limit intake of butter, cream, sugary cereals, soda, candy, and the like as much as possible.

Daily Requirements: Preschoolers
Generally, preschoolers need about 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day. For this age group, roughly five or six mini-meals throughout the day are preferable to keep their energy up.

Vegetables = 1 cup

Fruits = 1 cup

Grains = 3 ounces

Meats & Beans = 2 to 3 ounces

Dairy = 2 cups

Oils = 3 teaspoons

Fats & Sweets = Limit as much as possible

Daily Requirements: Elementary School Students
Complex carbohydrates and protein are particularly important for five- to eleven-year-olds, who need roughly from 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day. If they are very active, their calorie intake can be in the upper range and if they are fairly inactive, they should have a little less.

Vegetables = 2 cups

Fruits = 1 1/2 cups

Grains = 5 to 6 ounces

Meats & Beans = 5 ounces

Dairy = 3 cups

Oils = 4 teaspoons

Fats & Sweets = Limit as much as possible

Daily Requirements: Middle & High-School Students
Generally, teenagers need anywhere from 1,600 calories per day to 3,000 calories for very active boys. Often, teenagers need more calcium and protein than they take in.

Vegetables = 3 cups

Fruits = 2 cups

Grains = 6 ounces

Meats & Beans = 5 to 6 ounces

Dairy = 3 cups

Oils = 5 to 6 teaspoons

Fats & Sweets = Limit as much as possible

Size Matters
The American Dietetic Association (their website, eatright.org is very handy) provides a handy visual guide to appropriate serving sizes:

Meat = 3 ounces/Deck of cards/kitchen sponge

Pasta/Rice = ½ cup/Tennis ball/Ice cream scoop

Bread = 1 slice/CD case

Peanut Butter = 2 tablespoons/Ping-pong ball

Vegetables = 1/2 cup/Light bulb or rounded handful

Cheese = 1 ounce/Four dice

Dried Fruit = 1 ounce/One egg

Nuts = 1 ounce/Ping-pong ball

Editor's note: The preceding is from Real Food for Healthy Kids by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, © 2008, reprinted by permission of William Morrow/An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

To learn more about cartoonist Tom Fishburne, go to tomfishburne.com.


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