Physical Fitness and Nutrition

Child Nutrition Basics

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Good nutrition is a key component to a happy and healthy childhood. Children have very similar nutritional needs as adults, they just need specific nutrients at each stage of life in order to grow healthy and strong.

The Mayo Clinic created a great list of food choice guidelines for ensuring your child gets the fuel they need. Here are the roles that important nutrients serve:

  1. Protein – helps a child’s body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen. Seafood, lean meat, and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts (and nut butter!), and seeds are all rich in protein.
  2. Fats – are a great source of energy and are also important in helping the body to properly use other nutrients it needs. Whole-milk dairy products, fish, nuts and meat are good sources of fat.
  3. Folate – is necessary for healthy growth and development of a child’s cells. Whole-grain cereals, asparagus, spinach, and chickpeas are great examples of food rich in this B-vitamin. Good foods include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soybeans.
  4. Carbohydrates – help a child’s body use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice.
  5. Fiber – produces bowel regularity. It can also reduce the chances of heart disease and cancer later in life. Fruits, vegetables, beans, popcorn, and oatmeal are easy sources of fiber.
  6. Vitamin A – helps growth, keeps the eyes and skin healthy, and helps to prevent infection. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.
  7. Vitamin C – strengthens blood vessels, helps the body fight infection and heal, and helps to build strong bones and teeth. Citrus fruits, of course, orange juice, red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and cantaloupe are all rich in calcium.
  8. Calcium – is essential in helping to build a child’s healthy bones and teeth. Dairy has high levels of calcium: milk, yogurt, and cheese. Broccoli and spinach also have high levels.
  9. Iron- builds healthy blood that carries oxygen to cells. Good sources include red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.

Having the knowledge will only carry you so far if your child only eats chicken nuggets and pizza. In the next post, we will explore how to incorporate a wider variety of foods into even the pickiest child’s palette.

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