Provide a healthy, balanced diet to your children to help them stay physically fit and ward off diseases caused by high fat, high-sugar diets, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. When children eat a balanced diet, they tend to feel better about themselves and perform better in school and other activities.
Variety is the spice of life and the heart of a balanced diet. Feed your child a mix of healthy foods, from vegetables and fruits to whole grains and foods that contain plenty of protein. The USDA has developed its version of the food pyramid that details what types of foods children should eat each day. The food guide recommends getting plenty of servings of grain, of which at least half should be whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat bread. Children should also eat a wide variety of vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, leafy greens and tomatoes, every day. Meat and beans are needed for protein and dairy products for calcium.
Calories and Nutrients
As your child gets older, she’ll need more calories each day to meet her needs. The key is making sure she gets enough calories and not too many. MayoClinic.com recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 3 consume about 1,000 calories a day. Boys between the ages of 4 and 8 usually need between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day, while girls of the same age typically need between 1,200 and 1,800 daily. Of those calories, between 45 and 65 percent should be from carbohydrates, found in grain products and bread as well as fruits and vegetables, up to 30 percent should be from protein, found in beans, meat and nuts and around 30 to 35 percent should come from fats. Children also need about 25 grams of fiber each day and 500 to 1,300 mg of calcium.
Snacks and Meals
You can keep your child from overeating by serving him regular meals and scheduled snacks. Make sure he eats breakfast before dashing off to school in the morning. When he returns from school in the afternoon, provide a healthy snack, such as carrot sticks, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Encourage him to eat when he’s hungry so that he doesn’t end up eating too much later in the day.
Set a Good Example
Children often model what they see at home. It will be difficult to convince your child to drink a glass of water instead of soda when you regularly drink soda yourself. You can’t tell your kid to eat an apple while you are eating a candy bar. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables so that your children will pick up the habit as well. You may also want to set a good example by exercising and encouraging your children to participate in physical activities.
Coping With Pickiness
If you have a picky eater on your hands, getting her to eat a balanced diet can be difficult. Have her make a list of healthy foods she likes and try to serve those foods to her regularly. Encourage her to help you prepare foods, which may encourage her to eat those foods. Compromise with her by having her eat one new, strange food each week in exchange for eating her favorite healthy foods the rest of the time.