School age children require a nutrient rich diet that provides adequate energy for growth and development. Children grow at a steady pace and the calories they need vary by age, gender and activity level. As children grow, they require the same nutritious foods that adults consume. Variety is the key for healthy, nutrient dense meals and snacks.
Portion control is also a great lesson for children. An easy way to teach children portion control and healthy eating habits is with the new “Choose My Plate.gov” website. The plate represents healthy portion sizes based on the necessary food groups. The plate has four sections (vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein) plus a side order of dairy.
The key ideas to take away from the plate model are:
1. Fruits and vegetables should take up half the plate, with more vegetables than fruit (refer to the website for recommendations on amounts of the food groups based on age and gender; http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/).
2. The other half of the plate should be composed of the grain and protein group. At least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains. Amounts vary based on your child’s age and gender (for example, for boys aged 9-13 the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 34 grams/day-or 5 ounces, of protein).
3. Last is a side order of dairy; choose fat-free or low fat (1%) milk.
Last but not least, snacking the healthy way:
- Whole grain granola bars
- Whole grain cereal (1 ounce),mini bagel, crackers (1 ounce), or an English muffin
- Different colors of the rainbow of dried or fresh fruit (1/2 to 1 cup)
- Cut up vegetables (1 cup)
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich (half or whole)
- Trail mix or nuts (small handful)
- Tuna kits
Marissa G Cuevas, RD
Colorado Springs Health Partners, PC
Health Management Department
1625 Medical Center Point, Suite 210
Colorado Springs, CO 80907