The Importance of Nutrition in Children

As a mother, I am constantly thinking about the importance of nutrition in children and what my children are eating. I try to cut out refined sugars, white flours and add an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Recently, I was searching online on the subject of importance of nutrition in children with the hopes of finding a nice guideline to post on my refrigerator. As luck would have it, I found some great information focusing on nutrition in children from the American Heart Association that I found extremely helpful.

Because proper nutrition in children is important to their mental and physical development, it is important as parents to make sure we’re doing all that we can to fuel our children’s bodies with healthy food. Read below for important recommendations to consider in promoting cardiovascular health and proper nutrition in children.

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The importance of nutrition in children starts at infancy. Consider these tips below:

• Breastfeeding is the most nutritional food for newborns hands-down! The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of 2 years while the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages mothers to nurse a minimum of 12 months. At about 4–6 months of age, start adding other foods full of nutrients but do not stop breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age to ensure sufficient micronutrients in the diet.

• At 6 months of age consider adding no more than 4–6 oz of juice a day, but make sure it’s juice and not “sugared water”. Juice should only be served from a cup and never from a bottle.

• Don't “force feed” infants and toddlers if they aren’t hungry. Children are actually able to regulate their food well so if they’re not hungry, don’t push the issue.

• Introduce a variety of healthy foods and continue to do so even if they refuse.

• Make sure the foods you introduce are nutritionally sound and not full of empty calories.
Healthy nutrition in children and proper eating patterns for families are as follows:

• Avoid over-feeding your kids. A one-year-old should consume 900 calories a day. A 14-18 year old girl should consume 1,800 a day and a 14–18-year-old boy should consume 2200 a day.

• Dairy foods should be low fat and fat-free. Children ages 1-8 require two cups of milk each day while children ages 9–18 require three cups.

• Replace white breads and refined cereals with whole grain and high fiber breads and cereals. For a one year old, the recommended grain intake is 2oz. a day. For a 14-18 year old boy, that intake jumps to 7 oz. a day.

• Make sure the food your family consumes is low in saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, and extra sugars.

• Focus on providing a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Ensure that each meal contains at least one fruit or vegetable. Children between the ages of one and three should consumes at least one cup a day of fruit and ¾ cup of vegetables a day while a 14-18 year old boy should consume at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables a day.

• Offer a variety of food that includes carbohydrates, protein and other important nutrients in order to encourage proper nutrition in children.

• For children ages 2 to 3 years old: work to keep the total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories per day. For children and adolescents age 4 to 18 years: 25 to 35 percent of calories per day with most fats coming from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

• Make sure your child’s diet includes enough calories to maintain a healthy weight for the height and build of your child.

• Encourage activity in your child for at least 60 minutes a day.

• Serve fish regularly and fried fish doesn’t count!

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