The amount of calories that your child needs to remain healthy depends largely on three factors, namely; their age, gender and the amount of exercise that they do.  You do not need to start tracking every single calorie your child eats, however it is vital that you provide them with healthy options to choose from in regards to their meals.  Today we will be examining the different food groups and evaluating how much of each food group you should include in your child’s diet.

Carbohydrates

The carbohydrate food group is the main energy source for your children. They get between 45% – 65% of their calories from carbohydrates. When selecting the carbohydrates for your children, try to select healthy foods that are rich in carbohydrates. You can choose to give them whole grains, dairy products or even fruits and vegetables.

In the same breath, try to cut down the amount of foods they eat that contain a high concentration of refined flour or added sugar. Avoid foods such as white bread, crackers that aren’t whole grain, sweets and fizzy drinks. Instead, opt for foods such as wholemeal bread, raisins and fruit juice that is not concentrated.

Protein

Protein is vital to your child’s growth and muscle strength. They account for approximately 5% -20% of calories that your child intakes as a toddler and 10% – 30% as an older child. Food items you can use as good protein sources are chicken, leaner meats, dairy products, seafood, certain legumes (peas, beans and nuts) and even eggs.

Fat

Believe it or not, fat is a very important part of a young child’s diet; it does, however, get less important as you grow older. Younger children (between the ages of 2 and 3) are required to consume approximately 30% – 40% of calories from fats, while from age four upwards, they need to consume less, about 25% – 35% of calories from fat.

There are fat substitutes, known as dietary fats, that will provide only the essential fatty acids needed by their bodies to grow and their brain to fully develop. Try to ensure that your child’s intake of fat are from mostly healthy fats, like that of vegetable oils that you use to cook or certain nuts or fruit products that contain small amounts of healthy fat

Vitamins & Minerals

Your child should be getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals from the foods of the other groups that they eat. If for any reason you believe that you child is not getting the proper nutrition that is required you can ask your health professional about multivitamin supplements that can fill the gaps in your child’s diet.

Fibre

It is critical that you remember that a diet that is high in fibre will, more than likely, be low in calories, fat and cholesterol. There have been a variety of studies that has proven that diets that are high in fibre can reduce the risk of heart disease, constipation and even cancer. So ensure that you try to include a bit of fibre in your child’s diet.