Healthy Eating Options for Fueling Your Child
Healthy Eating Options
You’ve heard the old adage before: “You are what you eat!” Well, when I’ve asked my students what they had for breakfast, I often hear a short list of responses that include: “A Pop Tart” “A piece of toast” “A glass of O.J.” or even “I don’t eat breakfast.”
What that tells me is that they aren’t what they don’t eat. They aren’t nourished with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. They aren’t filled with nutrition that will provide them energy to sustain their mental and physical well-being throughout the school day.
Imagine children who are asked to be on task throughout the day and don’t have the energy to do so. It’s a struggle for them. It’s like driving in your car with very little gas and expecting it to carry you on a long distance road trip for the next seven or so hours. Not going to happen.
Later on in the school day, when I ask many of my students what their lunches consist of, I often hear things like: a can of soda, bag of chips, box of cookies and some ice cream. The myth is that kids can get away with a poor diet more so than adults. The fact is that children need their fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. A child’s nutrition is based on the same principles as that for adults, with the only difference in the amount of specific nutrients required at certain ages.
So what is the best diet for your child?
Based on the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans2:
- Children 4-8 years old require 1200-1600 calories/day*
- Children 9-13 years old require 1600-1800 calories/day*
- Children 14-18 years old require 1800-2200 calories/day*
*These values depend on physical activity levels (the greater the levels, the more calories required; males require more calories than females. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
“A healthy outside starts from the inside.” ~Robert Urich (American actor)
Next Steps for Healthy Eating
There is no one diet fits all approach for kids. Through trial and error, you will find what works best for your child. However, getting your child into a healthy eating pattern starts with promoting healthy choices. This can be done by providing different healthy options each week, encouraging a wide variety of healthy foods, and stocking your homes with only those healthy options.
I would recommend looking at the specific nutrients that are essential at certain milestone years of childhood and adolescence by reading up on the current Dietary Guidelines. Lastly, your actions outweigh your words. Setting a good example can go a long way for your children seeing and ultimately making healthy choices on their own as they get older.
Douglas Haddad, is an award-winning educator and best-selling author. You can go online or to a local bookstore and order his best-selling-book The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens: Strategies for Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential, you will find specific strategies to help guide your child with time management, setting goals, and motivation to achieve greatness in their life. www.douglashaddad.com
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