Foods to Encourage
Some of the foods that contain the best nutrients in high densities include:
- Fruit: Nearly all types of fruit are great for adding nutrients in a healthy way. Make sure to target fruit without added sugars—canned fruits or fruit juices often have a lot of these, so it’s important to read nutrition labels when choosing what to buy at the grocery store.
- Vegetables: They’re a bit tougher to get kids to eat, but they’re just as important as fruit. Be cautious of frozen or canned veggies because they can sometimes be very high in sodium. Look for a variety of colors in veggies, as these can represent various nutrients the body needs.
- Protein: Lean meats and poultry, plus things like beans, eggs, nuts and various soy products are good. Make sure, however, to maintain proper portion sizes with protein.
- Dairy: Look for low-fat dairy products whenever possible, or even better, soy-based dairy products.
- Grains: Look for whole grains over refined grains.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that contain fewer nutrients, or that might contain bad elements for your child’s health, include:
- Sugar and sweets: This refers to added and processed sugars, not the kind naturally found in fruit. Consuming too much of these sugars is often a primary cause of diabetes.
- Fats: Avoid saturated and trans fats—often found in red meats and full-fat dairy. Lots of oily, fatty foods contain these bad fats, and they can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart conditions.
Daily Calorie Intake
Based on age and gender, there are a few specific calorie guidelines you should follow. There are situations where your child’s pediatrician may recommend different guidelines, but average recommendations are:
- Ages 2-3: 1,000-1,400 calories per day
- Ages 4-8: 1,200-1,800 calories per day for girls, 1,200-2,000 calories per day for boys
- Ages 9-13: 1,400-2,200 calories per day for girls, 1,600-2,600 calories per day for boys
- Ages 14-18: 1,800-2,400 calories for girls, 2,000-3,200 calories per day for boys
There are guidelines about how these calories should be divided between the main food groups, but these may vary based on individual cases. Speak to your pediatrician about any questions you may have regarding your child’s diet.
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