Child Nutrition

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Children, while growing up require considerable amount of nutrition from healthy foods. This supplements the overall physical as well as mental growth of a child. It is imperative that your child consume a balanced diet every day.

A balanced diet is a diet that includes a combination of several different food types. These food types include grains and pulses, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy products, fats and oils. It should provide enough calories to ensure a desirable weight and should include all the necessary nutrients vital for a child's growth.

The best combination for a balanced diet is:

Low fat, low refined carbohydrates + healthy carbohydrates + moderate protein

As a general rule:

  • About 50 percent of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates.
  • About 30 percent should come from protein.
  • About 20 percent should come from all fat. (Of this saturated fat should not be more than one-third).

If a child leads a relatively active life and follows a balanced diet, he /she won't need any nutritional supplements. However, if the lifestyle is pretty sedate, or if the child is ill, under stress and is prescribed extra nutrients by a qualified physician or nutritionist, it may be prudent to supplement his/her diet with a multi-vitamin & mineral tablet.

That said, this should always be a short term measure. Remember, supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. They are just an addition to any diet. Children can consistently consume a healthy diet by following the guidelines given in the food pyramid.

Think of the Food Guide Pyramid as a giant puzzle that provides the 40+ nutrients children need every day to stay healthy. The Five Food Groups - Milk, Fruits, Vegetables, Grains and Meat - are the puzzle pieces. Each food group makes a unique nutrient contribution to the diet and the foods in each group contain similar nutrients. When a child eats the recommended servings from each food group, his / her diet is complete. When a food group is missing, the puzzle is incomplete.

The food groups and servings listed in the food pyramid are as follows:

  • Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group (6 to 11 Servings)
  • Vegetable Group (5 Servings)
  • Fruit Group (4 Servings)
  • Milk Group (3 Servings)
  • Meat Group (2 Servings)
  • Fats, Oils, and Sweets (Use sparingly)

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,