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Many families are stuck at home, with school canceled for the foreseeable future, and we're all getting a reminder of just how much of a child's dietary needs are met by school lunches. Children have specific nutritional requirements in order to support their growth and development, and these are guidelines all parents should know.
The American Heart Association has made a number of recommendations on proper dietary habits for a family with children. Among them:
Whole Grain: Always choose whole-grain and high-fiber breads and cereals, and avoid refined grain products. At least half of your grain servings should be whole grain, and look for the words "whole grain" as the first ingredient on the food label.
Dairy: Opt for fat-free and low-fat dairy foods.
Fruits and Vegetables: Serve a variety of these while limiting juices. Make sure each meal includes at least one fruit or vegetable.
Meat: Incorporate fish as a regular entrée, but avoid commercially fried fish products like fish sticks.
Fats: Most fats should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
So what do your kids need, and in what amount? Read on.
Calories: Measured in kilocalories per day (kcal/d), these estimates are based on a sedentary lifestyle. Increase by 0 to 200 kcal/d for moderate physical activity and 200 to 400 kcal/d for significant physical actvity.
Fat: Total fat intake is judged by percentage of your caloric intake. Children 2 to 3 years of age should get between 30 to 35 percent of their calories from fat; children 4 to 18 should get 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat.
Dairy: Calculations are based on cups of 2% milk.
Lean Proteins (Lean meats and beans):