Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

I already know that a growing child needs a balanced diet. But what are some of the key nutrients kids need, and where can you find them?

Great question! Most moms know that kids don’t always eat as planned or on schedule. I know with my own kids how tough it was to get them to eat what I thought they should when I wanted them to eat. The eating habits of one of my children were especially challenging and I had to get extremely creative to meet his needs for growth and development.

We want our kids to get enough calories and nutrients so that they will grow and be strong as well as stay active and enjoy life! Eating a balanced diet doesn’t always come easily however and may require some careful meal planning and snack ideas. Growing active kids need enough calories for energy without excess which could lead to childhood obesity.

Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth. Low fat milk is a good addition to the day’s meals but calcium can also come from other dairy, such as yogurt, smoothies and cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice (limit to meals).

Protein is vital to growing muscles. Give your child some protein sources at every meal including eggs, lean protein (skinless poultry, fish, or pork), nuts, beans, nut butter, and Greek yogurt.

Iron is often a nutrient that is lacking in our kids’ diets. You can give dried fruits, fortified cereals, red meat, eggs, spinach, fortified juice, and be sure to serve iron rich foods with vitamin C source such as juice or citrus to improve its absorption.

Kids aged 2-8 should get about 1400 calories, 5 oz. (servings) of grains, 1 ½ cups of vegetables, 1 ½ cups fruits, 2 ½ cups dairy, and 4 oz. of protein foods according to the MyPlate food group targets. I suggest you set up a profile for each of your children using the USDA’s Super Tracker. It is fairly easy and you can get menus, recipe ideas, interactive games for the kids to play and a way to track their intake to be sure you are hitting all the targets.

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