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March 14, 2016 | Family Medicine • Wellness Institute
The bodies of children are in high gear, busy growing, developing and maturing all the various organs and systems that eventually turn them into adults. Children have greater needs for energy, water and oxygen as they go through growth processes. Young bodies also absorb nutrients from the foods they eat more quickly than do older bodies. In addition to fueling active young bodies, good nutrition can stabilize energy, sharpen minds and smooth out moods.
There are some similarities between the nutritional needs of adults and children. Everyone needs the same basic types of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Depending on age, however, children need these nutrients in different amounts.
The American Heart Association (AHA) also lays out some nutrition guidelines for children, including recommendations regarding intake of fat, grains, fruits and vegetables, and calories.
Small children require fewer calories than do teenagers or adults. A 1-year-old child should consume about 900 calories per day, for example, while a 14- to 18-year-old needs 1,800 to 2,200 calories, depending on activity level and gender.
A child aged 2 to 3 years should get 30 to 35 percent of his calories from fat, while a child aged 4 to 18 should get 25 to 35 percent of his calories from fat. An adult, on the other hand, should only get 5 to 6 percent of his calories from fat.
Peer pressure and television ads for junk foods may make proper nutrition for children seem impossible, but there are steps you can take to instill eating habits without turning mealtime into a battle. Disguise vegetables in stews and sauces, for example, and always offer at least one of your child’s favorite nutritious foods with every meal.
The American Heart Association recommends healthy eating patterns for families. AHA suggests introducing healthy foods and continuing to offering them even if your child refuses these foods at first. Avoid offering nutrition-poor foods simply to get your child to eat.
Encouraging healthy eating patterns can greatly affect your child’s lifelong relationship with food. Good nutritional habits give your child the best opportunity to grow into a healthy, confident adult. Consider how nutrition for children differs from adults and learn what to do about it.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.