Nutrients For The Growing
When parents send their children off to school, many
breathe a sigh of relief. They think gone are the daily
hassles over meal times, what to eat for snacks,
introducing new foods, and encouraging children to eat
healthy food choices. If only that could be true! Children
beginning their school years still have many nutritional
needs to meet. Children entering school face
new choices about eating. Decisions about what to eat from
the school lunch menu, influences from friends at school,
and opportunities to select their after-school snacks will
affect nutritional habits that may last a lifetime.
School-aged children are still growing. Growth
requirements combined with physical activity play a role in
determining a child's nutritional needs. Genetic
background, gender, body size and shape are other factors.
The nutrients needed by children are the same needed by
adults, but the amounts vary.
Carbohydrates and fats provide energy for
growing and physical activity. Their are times when children hit
periods of rapid growth. At these times their appetites expand and
they may appear to be constantly eating. When growth slows, appetites
diminish and children will eat less food at meal times. They will
require fewer snacks.
Protein builds, maintains and repairs body
tissue. It is especially important for growth. In the
United States, most children do not suffer from lack of
dietary protein. It is important, to encourage
children to eat two to three servings of meat, fish,
poultry or other protein-rich food each day. Milk and other
dairy products also are good protein sources for children.
There are a variety of vitamins and minerals which support growth
and development during childhood. Calcium,
obtained from milk and dairy products and from dark green,
leafy vegetables, is usually sufficient nutritionally in the diets of
young children. As children approach teen years, their dietary
calcium intakes do not always keep up with recommended daily
allowances. Calcium is particularly important in building strong
bones and teeth. Bone density suffers when calcium needs are not
met during childhood years. Osteoporosis, a brittle bone
disease that affects older adults, begins in childhood if
diets are not providing adequate calcium-rich foods.
Iron-deficiency anemia can be a problem
for some children. Iron is an oxygen-carrying
component of blood. Children need iron for expanding blood volume
which is accompanied during periods of rapid growth. For girls, the
beginning of menstruation in late childhood adds an extra
demand for iron due to the regular loss of iron in
menstrual blood. Meats, fish, poultry, and enriched breads
and cereals are the best sources of dietary iron. A vitamin
and mineral supplement may be necessary to meet the iron
needs of menstruating female teens.
Most children eat diets that are adequate in Vitamins
A and C. When children do not eat enough fruits and
vegetables they run the risk of having low intakes of vitamins A and
C. B Complex Vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin
and other B vitamins) come from a variety of foods,
including grain products, meat and meat substitutes and
dairy products. Generally, children do not have trouble
getting adequate intakes of the B Complex vitamins.
When appetites slow down and children do not seem to be eating
nutritiously, concerned parents consider using a vitamin-mineral
supplement. Generally, children do not need vitamin-mineral
supplements. If one is being used, select a multiple vitamin and
mineral supplement. Parents should provide a variety of foods and
establish regular meal and snack times. In most cases, the nutrient
needs will be adequately met. If parents feel there is a reason to be
concerned about a child's poor nutrient intake they should
consult a physician or trained nutrition professional, such
as a registered dietitian.
The "Food Guide Pyramid" provides guidance in planning
daily food intakes for children. Plan meals and snacks that
provide the recommended number of servings each day.
|Food Guide Pyramid:
|Fats, Oils & Sweets
|Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese Group
|Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs,
|Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group