What is a healthy diet for a child?

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What helps a child grow taller?

Food offers a world of experiences well suited to how children learn. Because food can become a “hands-on” activity, everyday tasks can get kids involved in food—and so promote healthy eating. Try these simple ways to explore food with young children:

What food should a 4 year old eat?

As you walk the store aisles, encourage children to name the fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle or the canned food aisle, or to say the colors of foods they know. Find foods that are new to them; talk about their color, shape, size, and feel.

At home, as you take vegetables out of grocery bags, talk about the part of the plant each one grows on: leaf (cabbage, lettuce, greens), roots (carrot, potato), stalk (celery, asparagus), flower (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke), and seed (peas, corn).

Grow foods from seed in your backyard garden. Perhaps start the seeds in paper cups on your windowsill. Kids enjoy eating foods they grow themselves—and it’s a great science lesson!

Have children help decide what foods to serve. Perhaps show them pictures of vegetables and fruits. Have them pick the ones to make for family meals.

As preschoolers are ready, give them simple tasks to help with family meals. They might wash fruit, arrange bread in a basket, put ready-to-eat cereal in bowls, or help set the table. Most children like to help. They feel good about themselves when they can say, for example, “I poured it!” Working together in the kitchen offers many chances to nurture children. “Kids’ Kitchen” later in this chapter provides more ideas.

Expand their world by reading books about food to children. Ask a librarian, preschool teacher, or head of the children’s book department in a store to suggest titles. Prepare some foods from the stories.

How can I make my child eat?

Warm and caring staff, a safe environment, opportunities for development and self-expression—that’s what most parents look for when they choose child care. If you look for child care, rank good nutrition, food-safety standards, and active play high on your checklist, too. If your child has a food allergy or needs to avoid any food for religious or other reasons, find out how that’s handled.

Consider the importance of the food served. A child may eat two or more meals and snacks in a child-care facility, so the nutritional quality must be high. Since a young child is developing eating skills and food attitudes that will affect long-term health, the overall eat- ing environment is important, too.

To help establish a lifelong habit of active living, children regularly involved in child care need a program with safe, fun, and developmentally appropriate ways to move more and sit less. Choose a program that makes the active play a priority. Besides health, active living teaches social skills and helps develop body skills. As you choose child care, these factors suggest high standards of cleanliness, nutrition, and active play:

Food preparation and storage areas . . .

Neat and very clean Properly labeled and well-covered food Adequate refrigeration and heating equipment Perishable foods stored in the refrigerator

Hand-washing area . . .

Child-size sinks, or safe stepping stools for adult-size sinks Soap and paper towels

Mealtimes and snack times . . .

Meals and snacks with a variety of foods from the five food groups of MyPyramid. (Most child-care settings have specific guidelines and menus; ask to see them.) Tables and chairs appropriately sized for children’s comfort, or high chairs, or booster seats Child-size utensils and covered cups with spouts to help young children master their feeding skills Adult supervision at snack times and mealtimes and adequate staffing for feeding infants and children with special needs

Diaper-changing and toilet areas . . .

Very clean Located away from food, eating, and play areas Closed containers for soiled diapers, tissues, and wipes Daily removal of soiled items Separate storage for each child’s toothbrush, comb, and clothing.

What helps a child grow taller?

For children under age four, avoid popcorn, nuts, seeds, and other hard, small, whole foods to avoid choking. Chop raw carrots and grapes and cooked hot dogs in small pieces. Grains Group Animal crackers; cereal (dry or with milk); bagel; English muffin; graham crackers; pita (pocket) bread; rice cake; toast; tortilla; air-popped popcorn; pretzels. Go for whole-grain varieties whenever possible. Milk Group Cheese; cottage cheese; pudding; milk (including flavored milk); string cheese; yogurt; frozen yogurt Vegetable Group Any raw vegetable (cut in strips or circles); vegetable Soup Fruit Group Any fresh fruit (sliced for finger food); canned or frozen fruit; fruit juice*; fruit leather; dried fruit Meat and Beans Group Bean soup; peanut butter; hard-cooked egg; turkey or meat cubes; tuna salad See advice about fruit juice in “Have You Ever Wondered . . . are fruit juices and fruit drinks good choices for kids?” in this chapter.

What should a child eat?

School-age youngsters—no longer preschoolers, not yet teens—are establishing habits that last a lifetime. For their good health and healthy weight, nutrition and physical activity should rank high as priorities.


Help your school-age child develop healthful eating and active living habits that last a lifetime! Nutrients and Calories. Children don’t need any special foods for their growth, energy, and health, just enough food energy (but not too much) and nutrients. In fact, they need the same nutrients as their parents do, only in different amounts. For children, what nutrients may need special attention? The Dietary Guidelines identify calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and fiber as nutrients that may be low enough among children for concern. Zinc, important for growth, and iron may be issues for some children, too.

Before you compare your child with another, remember that even in this period of steady growth, children’s body sizes, shapes, and growth patterns vary. Most children grow in a pattern that’s more like a parent than an unrelated friend. (Get out your family photo album for visual memory.) “BMIs for Kids: Tracking Their Growth” in this chapter helps you look at your child’s growth pattern.

A school-age child’s appetite gradually increases; most eat more just before a growth spurt. During childhood, growth is gradual, accelerating most just prior to and during early adolescence: for girls, from ages ten through fourteen, and for boys, from ages twelve through sixteen. As long as a child is growing normally, he or she is getting enough calories. By tracking a child’s weight and height, your child’s healthcare professional will advise if your child is consuming adequate calories for healthy growth. Food Preferences and Habits. Children’s appetites and food preferences are changeable. Eating small amounts or not eating certain foods simply may mean that your child is testing his or her tastes, or perhaps exerting independence.

What are the 5 food groups for kids?

School-age children love to measure their progress from year to year on a growth chart. They want energy to run and play—and the energy to do well in school. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers have the same priorities: helping children grow up healthy—and have the energy to experience their world.

Pyramid Power for Kids

MyPyramid is a healthy eating guide for all members of the family. That said, a kid-friendly version—

MyPyramid for Kids—motivates children, ages six to eleven, to “Eat Right. Exercise. Have Fun.” Among its goals: it’s meant to help combat obesity, starting at a young age.

What are children’s favorite foods?

  • Be physically active every day. The child climbing the steps reminds kids to be physically active every day: 60 minutes of moderate activity on most days!

Eat foods from every food group every day. With a stripe for each food group, MyPyramid for Kids reminds children to eat a variety of foods from all five food groups—Grains, Vegetables, Fruit, Milk, and Meat and Beans Groups—plus healthy oils. Enter- age many colorful vegetables, not just fries; fruit as a sweet snack, not just ice cream; and chicken or fish sandwiches.

Choose healthier foods from each group. Every food group has foods that kids should eat more often—more nutrient-rich foods. Offer mostly whole-grain crackers instead of cookies; yogurt rather than ice cream; raw veggies instead of chips; fruit in place of fruit pies. See “Foods to ‘Chews’” on page 414 for more ideas.

Eat more from some food groups than others. The stripes of MyPyramid are different sizes, suggesting how much from each group. Most children need more vegetables and fruits than they eat now. “Vegetables for Kids: The Challenge,” on page 413, offers tips. Most children need more whole-grain foods, too; choose whole grains for crackers, breakfast cereals, and sandwich bread.

Make the right choices for you. For help in making personal choices for eating better and moving, check the Web site (www.MyPyramid.gov).

Take it one step at a time. For kids and parents, learning to eat smart and move more is sensible. Start with one new, good thing a day. Add another new one every day.

The Dietary Guidelines advise everyone ages two on up to consume enough fruits and vegetables, yet stay within their calorie needs. For school-aged kids, there’s more food-group advice: Consume whole-grain products often; at least half the grains should be whole grains. Children, two to eight years should consume two cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. Children nine years of age and older should consume three cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

Vegetables for Kids:

How much of each food group should a child eat?

Kids—and adults, too—are urged to eat a variety of colorful, nutrient-rich vegetables for plenty of health reasons! American kids typically eat more than half their vegetable intake as potatoes (most often high-fat fries) or tomatoes. Snacks are often cookies, chips, other salty snacks, candy, and dessert foods rather than fruit or veggies.

Add veggies to kid favorites. Mix peas into macaroni and cheese. Add carrot shreds to spaghetti sauce, chili, lasagna, even peanut butter. Put zucchini shreds into burgers or mashed potatoes.

“Fortify” ready-to-eat soup with extra vegetables or canned beans.

Offer raw finger-food veggies. Kids may prefer uncooked vegetables. They like to “dip,” too. So offer salsa, bean dip, or herb-flavored plain yogurt.

Kids like the bright colors and crisp textures of vegetables. To keep them appealing, steam microwave veggies in small amounts of water, stir-fry.

Start a “veggie club.” Try to taste vegetables from A to Z, and check off letters of the alphabet

as you go! As you shop, let kids pick a new vegetable as a family “adventure.” Post a tasting chart on the refrigerator door to recognize family tasters.

Grow veggies together. If you don’t have a gar-den, plant a container garden. Most kids eat vegetables they grow!

From your library, check out children’s books about vegetables. Read the story, then taste the veggies together!

Does nothing work? Offer more fruit, another source of vitamins A and C, and phytonutrients.

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