Approximately 20% of children in the United States are affected by obesity, a rate that has tripled since the 1970s. This highlights the immense significance of proper nutrition for children. Despite the abundance of accessible information, sifting through it to determine the components of a well-balanced diet and beneficial eating behaviors for one’s child can be challenging. We’re here to guide you through the most important nutrition facts for children and get you started with some healthy lunch ideas.
Five Main Food Groups
A balanced diet is crucial to obtain the vitamins and minerals needed for a child’s growth. To create a healthy and balanced diet, children need to eat from five main food groups: grains, dairy, protein, vegetables, and fruits. The portion of each of these groups needs to be determined by a professional since your child’s age, genetic makeup, and physical activity should be taken into account.
Grains can be divided into two groups: whole and refined grains. Whole grains including oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, and brown rice are more nutritious. On the other hand, refined grains have lost numerous valuable nutrition, resulting in a longer shelf life, making whole grains the superior choice. Examples of refined grains are cereal, tortillas, white bread, and white rice. For children, grains, preferably whole, should be approximately 40% of their diet.
Vegetables or 100% vegetable juices can be a great source of vitamins. Vegetables can be used in different forms, which makes them easily customizable for your children. The determined portion of vegetables is dependent on the subcategory it belongs to. However, in general, 35% of a child’s diet should consist of fruits and vegetables. With the great variety of vegetables, there is no need to force one specific kind. If they don’t like cooked or raw carrots, try to juice them and add some other veggies and fruits to make them tasty.
Most fruits contain a high sugar content, but that doesn’t take away the importance of fruit because of its fiber and vitamins. Fruit can be consumed as a snack or juice and should be eaten daily for children to get their essential nutrients. There are different groups of fruit to choose from, each having its own nutritional benefits. Try to eat with the seasons, these fruits are normally the least processed and are best for your and your child’s body.
Protein is needed for growth and good health. Together with dairy products, protein should be 25% of your child’s diet. Protein can be divided into two groups: lean and fat protein. To maintain a healthy diet for your child, try to use lean protein as often as possible. Lean protein includes poultry, fish, and legumes.
Dairy products consist of milk, yogurt, and cheese. In recent years, more people have been interested in trying vegan diets. However, it remains important to include dairy in your child’s diet. Dairy is needed for children to build strong bones and reduce the possible risk of chronic diseases. If you notice your child suffering from nausea, abdominal pain, or bloating after dairy intake they might be suffering from lactose intolerance. Make sure to check with a doctor and take the necessary tests to determine the issue and talk about alternatives.
Fats and Sugar
While fats and sugars are not part of the five main food groups, they’re present in most processed foods. This category should not be more than 5% of your child’s diet. It’s not possible to completely eliminate this from their diet, so don’t try to prevent the occasional cake or ice cream. Also worth mentioning are healthy fats, from sources like nuts and seeds. Keep in mind to include these in your child’s diet as well.
Healthy Lunch Ideas for School
With schools starting soon, you might start to worry about maintaining your child’s healthy diet in a lunchbox. By incorporating all five main food groups, you’re on the right path. Another important aspect of packing lunch for school is to incorporate your child’s ideas and input too. This will make them excited for the next day’s lunch and will help you to build some quality time together. Let’s look at some healthy lunch ideas for school:
This pizza quesadilla is a great example of a recipe that contains one aspect of every food group. For this quesadilla, you need tortillas, tomato sauce or pesto, cheese, beans, spinach, and broccoli. You can easily make this dish with your toddler and create some quality time. To complete their lunchbox, add some fruit and crackers as a snack.
Peanut Butter and Banana
Bananas are an easy fruit to make delicious recipes with. Whether you use it for banana bread, banana milkshake, or banana chia pudding there’s always something your kid will like. Peanut butter combined with banana is a great match, to twist this classic, you can add some carrots to give it some color. As simple as it sounds, you could make a sandwich with peanut butter, banana, and carrot. To give it a twist, you can cut slices of bread and spread some peanut butter on it and roll it on the banana like a sushi roll. Peanut butter is a source of protein and healthy fat, making it a great addition to the banana and grains in this recipe.
These veggie nuggets are a great lunch idea because they’re packed with nutrients. You can make these nuggets with breadcrumbs, eggs, broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, garlic, and seasoning. Add them to your child’s lunchbox with their favorite dip and have some fruit as a snack and you’re good to go.
Nutrition is important for kids, the earlier you start with a healthy and balanced diet, the easier they will maintain it throughout their lives. When kids go to school, you might be worried about them not getting the proper nutrition, by incorporating their ideas and the five main food groups in their lunch you can be assured of the needed balance.