Ensuring that your child maintains a healthy weight while still getting adequate nutrition is not difficult, but it does take some planning. Kids expend a lot of energy, so use these five tips to make sure the food they eat is right for their growing bodies.
Look at food labels
It may seem obvious, but it is the easiest way to know what is going into your body. Food labels provide information on calories and nutritional guidelines for recommended daily allowances. Most processed food and snacks have many empty calories and provide very little nutrition, so you should avoid giving them to your child too often. Packaged food snacks are generally also high in preservatives, sodium and artificial flavors and colors, which can lead to long-term health disorders.
Children should consume fiber-rich carbohydrate choices from the vegetable, fruit and grain groups. Try to feed your child foods with a low to medium Glycemic Index (GI) so that his or her blood sugar levels do not fluctuate wildly throughout the day. Pure sugar has a Glycemic Index of 100, while most vegetables have a rating of 55 or less. Here are a few examples of foods broken down into three categories:
- Low GI (55 or less) beans, sunflower seeds, oats, rye, wheat, most vegetables and fruits
- Medium GI (56 -69) processed grains like enriched wheat, rice; processed fruits like raisins, prunes
- High GI (70 and greater) white bread, white rice, corn flakes, sugary breakfast cereals, bagels
To maintain adequate child nutrition, you must also be sure that your child consumes an appropriate amount of fat, which is required for proper metabolism and use of energy. Do not eliminate fats altogether they should make up about 10 percent of their daily diet. It's important that kids eat "good" fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Reduce their intake of trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol.
Although it varies by age group and gender, approximately 20 percent of a daily diet should come from proteins. If your child is obese, consider low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for dairy proteins. Consume meat in moderation two or three times per week, and shop for leaner cuts. Trim away fat and skin on poultry.
Physical activity and meal frequency
Using a computer and watching TV are acceptable forms of entertainment, but you should monitor your child's use and make sure they limit sedentary activities to around two hours per day. Encourage outdoor activities such as sports, running, swimming and trips to the local park. Couple that outside activity with frequent, smaller meals instead of a few larger meals. Hearty snacks like cruciferous vegetables (raw carrots, celery, broccoli) and antioxidant fruits (blueberries, strawberries and grapefruit) are a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth.
If you want more guidance and information on child nutrition, consult an Atlanta pediatrician or nutritionist to find the best meal plan to fit your family's needs.