Tips for Feeding Toddlers

  • Make it comfortable for a child to eat—comfortably seated, foot support, finger foods.
  • Develop a routine—schedule regular meals and snacks.
  • Plan one familiar food at each meal.
  • Offer various textures and colors—separate them on the plate.
  • Serve small portions and let the child ask for more.
  • Allow a child to eat at his or her own pace.
  • Teach and reinforce good table manners.
  • Remain calm if a meal is left untouched.
  • Set a good example.

eating foods that are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates and fiber is important. Emphasize breakfast as an important meal. Pack healthful lunches that include fruit, vegetables, bread or some other form of starch, a meat or other protein, and low-fat milk. If a child participates in the school lunch program, talk about how to make nutritious food choices. Provide fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, or low-fat yogurts as after-school snacks. If a child participates in vigorous physical activity, more calories may be needed.

One of the major challenges for some school-age children is controlling weight. If a child eats more calories than are used, the pounds will add up, particularly if the child is inactive. Besides the social and emotional stresses that may result from peers who make fun of a child's excess weight, a higher than desirable weight at this age can increase the risk for later health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased blood cholesterol or triglyceride values.

Still, overweight children have the same nutrient needs as other children. The goal should be to stop or slow the rate of weight gain and allow height (growth) to catch up. Do not allow a child to restrict certain foods or to try fad diets. Instead, provide healthful foods in lesser amounts.

The best way to teach a child about good nutrition is to set a good example in your own eating habits.

Teenage Years: Ages 13 to 19

The teen years and the arrival of puberty are the second period of remarkable growth for youngsters. It is a period of profound development that has important nutritional implications. As a result, requirements increase for energy and all nutrients.

The growth and energy requirements of the teen years nudge daily calorie needs upward. On average, boys 11 to 14 years old need to have approximately 2,500 calories per day. From age 15 to 18, daily calorie requirements increase to 2,800 calories. Teenage girls also require more calories, but in the neighborhood of 2,200 calories a day.

Most of the calories a teenager consumes should take the form of the complex carbohydrates found at the bottom of the Food Guide Pyramid. It is also a good idea for teens to have 3 servings of calcium-rich foods a day (milk, yogurt, cheese, certain vegetables) to make certain that needs are met for growing bones. Iron is also important to the expanding volume of blood in the body and for increasing muscle mass. Teenage girls can be at risk for a shortage of iron as a result of iron loss through menstruation. To ensure ample dietary iron, encourage teens to eat fish, poultry (especially dark meat), red meat, eggs, legumes, potatoes, broccoli, rice, and iron-enriched grain products.

Growing, active teenagers have a real need to snack between meals. Encourage healthful snacks such as fresh fruits and raw vegetables, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, whole-grain bread, popcorn, pretzels, and cereals.

Several factors challenge the ability of teenagers to eat well. The typical teen has a busy school schedule, extracurricular activities, and often part-time employment. These may lead to skipping breakfast and other meals in favor of more meals from vending machines and fast-food restaurants, and more snacking on convenience items. For example, adolescence is an especially important time to get adequate calcium. Inadequate calcium may make teens more prone to the development of osteoporosis and other diseases in the future.

When weight gain accompanies these habits, many teenagers turn to fad diets for quick weight loss. All of these pressures may lead to nutritional excesses, deficiencies, and, at the extreme, eating disorders.

Excessive weight concerns can have more serious implications. Extremes in eating patterns, either severe under-eating or excessive overeating, may result in serious—even life-threatening—health risks. These extremes may impair some bodily functions, including decreased hormone pro duction, and thereby slow sexual maturation in both girls and boys. Consult a health care professional if an adolescent has a problem with weight.


The adult body is dynamic, changing subtly as the years march by. Therefore, what was a good diet for you in your second or third decade of life may no longer be a good fit at age 50 or 60.

For example, your metabolism—the way in which your body converts the food you eat into energy—slows. This means that you gradually need less food for a similar activity level. Fewer and fewer calories are needed as you grow older—about 10 percent less per decade from age 50 onward. This slowing of the metabolism is perfectly natural and occurs because you lose muscle mass (which utilizes most of the energy you produce) as you age. Exercise helps to maintain muscle mass and helps you burn calories. However, most Americans still need to reduce calories.

Variety and moderation remain the keys to a healthful diet. A balanced diet ensures proper intake of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Moderation controls calories and is especially important with regard to consumption of alcohol. Drinking plenty of water, eating fiber-rich foods, and staying as active as possible can help to stave off constipation.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

The best time to start thinking about good nutrition is before a woman becomes pregnant. Then she can be certain that her baby will have all the essential nutrients from the moment of conception.

Babies born at low weights (less than 5.5 pounds) have a greater likelihood for development of health problems. Mothers-to-be can help prevent this from occurring by eating the well-rounded diet that women their age would ideally eat, as well as achieving an appropriate weight for their height. Women who are 15 percent or more underweight present a special risk for a difficult pregnancy and childbirth.

Before becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about your need for a folic acid (a B vitamin) supplement. Doctors and scientists agree that use of folic acid supplements can reduce the occurrence of a birth defect called a neural tube defect. One form of this defect is spina bifida, an incomplete closure of the spine. Folate levels also may be affected by consuming alcohol and

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