A healthy diet is important for everyone at all stages of the life cycle. Children require the same kinds of nutrients as adults to support their growing bodies and activity, but the amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals children need varies depending on their age, sex and activity level.
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Calories Still Count
Unlike adults, calorie needs for children increase as they get older. Eleven-year-old boys require an average of 1,800 calories for a more sedentary child, to as much as 2,600 calories for a very active boy. Girls of the same age usually require fewer calories, and their needs range from 1,400 to 2,200 calories depending on how physically active they are. Breaking these calories into several healthy, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day provides active children with the energy and nutrients they need to grow while maintaining a healthy weight.
Kids Need Balance
Children need a balance of foods from all food groups. Carbohydrates provide energy for active bodies, and most 11-year-olds should eat about 6 ounces of starches each day. Half of those should be whole grains like whole-grain cereal, oats, brown rice, or whole-wheat bread or pasta. Fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins for growing bodies; ideally, children who require 2,000 calories per day should eat about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day from a variety of sources. Breakfast foods like cereal, toast and fruit can provide several food groups in one nutritious meal.
Nutrients Are Important for Growth
Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese provide calcium for growing bones, and 11-year-old kids need three servings from this group each day. A serving of dairy is 1 cup of milk or yogurt or an ounce of cheese. Protein foods are important for the development of growing muscles, tissues and organs, and a total of 5 ½ ounces from lean meats like chicken, fish or turkey, beans, or nuts and seeds is recommended each day. A healthy lunch or dinner for an 11-year-old should include some protein and a glass of milk, along with a good portion of fruit and vegetables.
Smart Snacks Provide Energy
It’s important for 11-year-olds to choose healthy snacks for sustained energy throughout the day. Good choices include fruit or cut-up vegetables, yogurt, cheese sticks, popcorn or trail mix. While it’s tempting for most kids to snack on sweets like cookies and candy or salty snacks like chips, these are low in nutrients and high in fat and sugar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children who require 2,000 calories each day limit calories from fats and sugar to about 260 calories per day.