Nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis says that about 1 in 3 children in America are either overweight or obese. Like overweight and obese adults, the goal for children should focus on maintaining a healthy weight. The total daily calories your child consumes should be enough to support a normal rate of growth and development for his age group, in addition to meeting his energy needs.
Fruits and Vegetables
Each meal should include at least one fruit or vegetable says the American Heart Association. Serve your child a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Include these healthy food choices in meals and snacks. If your child is not a big fan of vegetables, sneak them in with other dishes such as soups, sauces, stir fry, omelets and baked goods. Shred or grate these healthy ingredients to make them blend in. Offer your child a wide choice of fruits and vegetables. There is bound to be something your child likes to eat.
Limit your child's consumption of fruit juices and other sweetened beverages. Soft drinks are high in sugar and calories. Offer your child milk and water to drink instead. Any juices your child does drink should be 100 percent fruit juice. Allow your child to drink no more than 12 oz. of fruit juice a day. A study published in a 1998 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" reported that milk, sweetened beverages and candy are the foods that contribute the most sugar to a 10-year-old child's diet. Encourage your child to eat foods low in added sugars. Keep healthy snacks on hand so that your child isn't filling up on empty calories. Pretzel sticks, fruit smoothies, low-fat or string cheeses and cereal bars made from whole grains are healthy snack choices.
Feed your child foods with nutritional value. Whole-grain, high-fiber foods are more nutritious than breads, cereals and pastas made from refined grains. Choose whole-grain cereals low in sugar. Calories should not exceed the number needed to maintain a healthy weight for your child's height and body type. At least half of the grains in your child's diet should be whole-grain products, as these provide fuel for energy. Read food labels and choose products that list "whole grains" as the first ingredient.
Include low-fat or fat-free dairy foods in your child's diet. Children between the ages of 9 and 18 need to drink three cups of milk each day. Although milk is the best source of calcium, pudding, natural cheeses and yogurt are other dairy alternatives.
The American Heart Association recommends that total fat consumption for children ages 4 and up should not exceed between 25 and 35 percent of daily caloric intake. Serve your child foods low in saturated fat and trans fat. Fats should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Cold-water fish, walnuts, flaxseed and vegetable oils are common sources of healthy fats. Fast foods and meals served at restaurants usually have more fat and sugar; therefore, take your child to dine out only on special occasions. By cooking more meals at home, you can reduce the fat content in the foods your child eats.