Parenting

What are the Healthy Foods for Children? – Healthy Food Chart

While children are growing, they are not just growing physically. There are internal processes such as their immune systems that we cannot see. These internal processes need proper nutrition in order to fully develop. With a simple and healthy food chart for children, you can learn what kind of foods to feed your child.

The best way for children to get all the vitamins they need is through fruits and vegetables in their most unprocessed forms. As soon as your child can chew them, you can provide fresh fruits and vegetables. The earlier the child tries the fruits and veggies, the more likely they are to eat and enjoy them throughout their childhood.

Protein is also important for a growing child. If your family is vegetarian, provide legumes and beans in place of meat.

Your child’s eating habits are modeled after yours. So be careful of what you eat so you can model healthy habits for them. Even if you dislike a particular vegetable, pretend it is the best thing you ever ate, for their sake. If they see you enjoying it, they may want to try it as well. Do not assume that your child will avoid certain healthy foods. You may be surprised by their tastes.

The United States Department of Agriculture has recently eliminated the traditional food pyramid and replaced it with a chart of a traditional plate. The plate indicates how much of each food group to include in each meal. This should make it easier for parents to estimate how much of each food group their child should receive than calculating exact measurements.

As you can see from the above graphic, half of the meal should include fruits and vegetables. Grains should take up 1/4 of the plate. At least half of the grains should be whole grains. Protein includes meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. Beans and peas are also proteins but are unique in that they are also vegetables. Dairy includes not only milk, but milk-based foods such as yogurt and cheese. Depending on a child’s age, the recommended serving of dairy per meal is generally one cup.

One group that is not displayed on the plate is oils, although not technically a food group. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from fish and different types of plants, such as peanuts.  Although high in fat, healthy oils are needed for nutrients to be absorbed by the body. A daily allowance of oils depends on the child’s age, but a general rule of thumb is about 4-5 teaspoons per day.

Stay away from empty calories like sugar and solid fats. Although fine as a special treat and in moderation, a diet that includes too much sugars and fats can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and numerous other health problems. This is why you do not see them listed on the plate graphic above.

Following the plate diagram should make it easier to prepare meals for both you and your child. The plate graphic is a great guide, but since the recommended portions vary according to the child’s sex and age, feel free to visit www.choosemyplate.gov for a detailed chart.

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