With chronic diseases and obesity on the rise, it’s important for your child to develop healthy eating habits now so he can achieve optimum physical and cognitive growth, a healthy weight and a reduction in his risk for chronic disease. Growth at this stage involves changes in appetite and physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth chart provides a guideline for monitoring your child’s weight and height in relation to age.
Calories, Carbs, Protein and Fat
A boy between the ages of 4 and 8 years requires 1,400 calories per day. These calories should come from a variety of foods. Carbohydrates should make up 45 percent to 65 percent of total calories. Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruits and vegetables. Protein should be 25 percent to 35 percent of total calories or 4 ounces of protein per day. Protein can come from meat, poultry, fish, beans or legumes. Fat intake should be 25 percent to 35 percent of total calories and should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources. This includes fish, poultry, nuts, peanut butter, avocado and vegetable oil.
A 6-year-old boy should get five 1-ounce servings of grains every day. A 1-ounce serving of grain can be one piece of bread; 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or oatmeal; 1 cup of flake cereal; 1 cup of popcorn; or one pancake. Encourage whole grains by purchasing and eating whole-grain breads, rice and cereal. Whole grains are high in fiber, and your growing boy needs 25 grams of fiber every day.
Fruits and Vegetables
Your 6-year-old boy needs 1.5 cups of fruit and 1.5 cups of vegetables each day. Fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables count. Provide a variety of colors when offering vegetables such as dark green, red and orange. Use fruits as snacks or desserts. Choose whole and sliced fruit more often than fruit juice as juice is high in sugar and low in fiber.
Your 6-year-old boy needs 2 cups of dairy products every day. One cup of dairy product can be 8 ounces of low-fat or fat-free milk, 8 ounces of low-fat or fat-free yogurt, or 1 ounce of cheese. Dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D; both are important for growing bones and teeth.
It’s important for a growing child to get at least 60 minutes of active play every day. Getting 60 minutes of physical activity promotes well-being, prevents children from becoming overweight and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle. These 60 minutes can be unorganized free play, outdoor activities or organized sports.