Carbohydrates are used by the body for energy. Complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly and provide long-term energy. Simple carbohydrates are used quickly and provide short bursts of energy. Children over the age of 2 should consume 50 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, according to Kids Health.org. Offering healthy carbohydrates over those with less nutrition is important for your child’s overall health.
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Whole grains are a nutrition-packed carbohydrate choice for children. They grains have been minimally processed to retain B vitamins, fiber and carbohydrates. Whole grains include brown or wild rice, whole wheat, millet, quinoa and barley. These grains may be found in a variety of kid-friendly foods like whole grain wheat breads and bread products, cereals and whole grain pasta. It is best to choose products that list whole grain as the first or second ingredient on their labels. Enriched grains, like white rice, also contain carbohydrates, but lose nutritional value during processing. Vitamins and nutrients are added back to enriched grain products, but they still do not offer the same nutrition and fiber benefit as whole grains. KidsHealth.org suggests choosing whole grain products over enriched grain products as much as possible for better nutrition.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that provide growing children with nutrition and energy. Choose fruits that your child enjoys and incorporate them into meals and snacks. Common child-friendly fruits that contain carbohydrates include bananas, cherries, citrus fruits, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears and melons. Vegetables may be enjoyed raw or cooked. The National Diabetes Education Program recommends children consume 2 to 2 1/2 cups of raw or cooked vegetables per day. Good vegetable carbohydrate choices include carrots, broccoli, salad greens, corn, peas and peppers.
Milk and milk products are good carbohydrate choices for kids. Dairy products offer calcium for growing bones and teeth as well as carbohydrates for energy. Choose low-fat dairy products to avoid unnecessary fat and calories. Low-fat milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese and cream cheese are good dairy choices.
Snack foods may offer carbohydrates, but not necessarily the good kind. Some simple carbohydrates, like refined white sugar, do not offer nutritional value and do not provide the body with long-term energy. Kids should consume snacks and other foods with high sugar content in moderation. It is best to limit their consumption of candy, cakes, cookies and sodas.