Eating habits develop early in life, so when children learn how to eat healthy the result can literally be life-altering. By teaching children about nutrition, you help them understand the reasons behind choosing an apple or choosing a candy bar. Nutrition-based questions for kids should start with the basics. Essentially humans need protein for growth and fats and carbohydrates for energy. They need nutrients and water as well as foods that contain certain minerals and compounds that include essential amino acids and vitamins. The body can make some of these nutrients, while others need to be eaten to maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet.
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Water is the body’s most essential nutrient. Without it, a person could not survive for more than five to seven days without organ or system damage. Water is also the most abundant substance in the body, representing about two thirds of body weight. Questions: 1) What is the body’s most essential nutrient? 2) What is the most abundant substance in the body? 3) Two thirds of body weight is attributed to what?
The body constantly makes new proteins so it can grow and repair tissue. Protein forms the muscles, blood, skin, organs, hair and nails. Proteins are large, complex molecules formed from different combinations of 20 basic units called amino acids. The body can make 11 of these acids from basic substances present in the body, but the other nine, called the essential amino acids, must be obtained from foods. Questions: 1) What do proteins do for the body? 2) How many amino acids can the body make from substances already present in the body? 3) What forms the muscles, blood, skin, organs, hair and nails of the body?
Carbohydrates fall into three categories: sugars, starches and cellulose, or indigestible fiber. Not all sugars and starches are nutritionally equal. Table sugar or sucrose provides what nutritionists call "empty calories." People should eat more starches and cellulose, called complex carbohydrates. Whole-grain bread, potatoes, rice, whole-wheat pasta, dried peas and beans, fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. Questions: 1) What are sugars, starches and fiber? 2) Is ordinary table sugar a carbohydrate? 3) Name three complex carbohydrates.
Humans get dietary fiber from the indigestible parts of plant foods, which are also carbohydrates. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble, based on water solubility. Both types of fiber add bulk to feces, helping it to retain water, making it softer and easier to expel or poop out. Fiber helps to prevent constipation. Questions: 1) Name the two types of fiber. 2) Where does fiber come from? 3) Nutritionally speaking, why do people eat fiber?
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- United States Department of Agriculture: Inside the Pyramid
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Youth! Nutrition
- World Health Organization: Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the DG for Americans, 2010: Part D, Section 4 Protein
- USDA: Report of the DGAC on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: Carbohydrates