Food for Hungry Tummies

What's healthful eating for young children? A variety of foods with different textures, tastes, and colors— in adequate amounts—provides the nutrients and the food energy children need to thrive. Nourishment comes from a wide array of food.

What about nutrients? Carbohydrates should be children's main energy source. How much? Their

Family styles influence a child's eating and physi- Take a moment to assess your own family's eating cal activity patterns and attitudes for life. What chil- and physical activity practices. As a parent, family mem-

dren eat and how much they move—and their ber, or caregiver: attitude toward both—have lifelong implications.

Do You...

Always Usually Sometimes Never

Eat your meals together as a family at least once a day?

Serve meals and snacks on a regular schedule?

Give your youngster freedom to choose the foods he or she eats?

Respect a child's appetite and offer only child-sized portions?

Involve children in planning and preparing family food?

Make an effort to keep mealtimes pleasant?

Include snacks as part of the day's eating plan?

Attempt to keep eating to the kitchen, dining room, or another

designated place?

Set a good role model with your food decisions?

Avoid rewarding or punishing a child with food?

Give kids enough time to eat—make meals last at least fifteen minutes?

Turn off the TV while you eat together?

Offer foods that appeal to children?

Serve a variety of foods for meals and snacks?

Offer new foods and new food combinations?

Avoid forcing a child to eat everything on the plate?

Set a good role model by being physically active?

Limit TV time to one to two hours daily?

Encourage children to play actively?

Enjoy physical activity regularly as a family (at least once or twice weekly)?


Count the number of check marks in each column. Then multiply by these scores.

What's your total?

"Always": 3 points

"Usually": 2 points

"Sometimes": 1 points

"Never": 0 point

Your total score_

What does your score suggest?

If you scored 40 to 60 points, you already apply what you know about nurturing positive eating and physical activity patterns. Read on for more ideas.

A score of 20 to 39 suggests you're on the right track for feeding and exercising with kids. But you still have room to make positive changes in your family's lifestyle. Check this chapter for more practical tips.

Less than 20, try to incorporate a few changes in your family's approach to food and physical activity. Read on for some steps to get you started.

energy needs depend on their growth rate, body size, and level of physical activity. Most moderately active to active children, ages three to five, likely need 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day, depending on their age, gender, size, and level of physical activity. Younger children need somewhat less. They need enough protein (5 to 20 percent of their total calories) for growth and for substances (hormones and enzymes) that stimulate body processes. Children need moderate amounts of fat, too, again for growth and to meet their energy needs; see "Fat Facts for Kids" later in this chapter. Food variety can supply the vitamins and minerals that young children need to thrive, although calcium and iron are among the nutrients that may need your attention. Fiber is important, too! For children ages one to three years, the Institute of Medicine advises 19 grams of total fiber a day; for children ages four to eight years, the advice is 25 grams a day. A variety of foods provides all these important nutrients. See the Dietary Reference Intakes in the Appendices.

Variety for young children includes enough calcium-rich dairy foods and iron-rich protein foods, as well as enough nutrient-rich, fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods. For overall good nutrition, offer foods with less added sugars, and from age two years on, lower-fat dairy choices. For preschoolers ages two years on up, use MyPyramid to guide and plan a day's worth of healthful meals and snacks— with enough food variety in the right amounts. For food-group amounts, find your child's age and gender with his or her activity level on the "MyPyramid Food Intake Pattern Calorie Levels" chart in the Appendices, then the food group plan to match the recommended calories.

For every nutrient, children have many choices. If your children won't touch sweet potatoes, offer a wedge of cantaloupe; both are good sources of vitamin A. Is milk rejected? Try chocolate or another flavored milk or offer other calcium-rich foods—such as cheese or yogurt. If you offer different kinds of healthful foods regularly, your child will learn to enjoy many of them—and reap their benefits. Children often refuse foods the first time. Keep trying!

Whole milk, rather than low-fat varieties, is recommended for children twelve to twenty-four months of age. Whole milk supplies more fat and calories than low-fat or fat-free milk. As a concentrated source of

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