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Nutrition: Healthy Kids

Updated on March 18, 2013
Fresh Fruit
Fresh Fruit | Source

Building Strong Bodies

Healthy eating is important for everyone but it is imperative for young growing bodies. Children’s bodies only grow once. The muscles and bones that they are creating will be the only ones they will ever get. If their bodies don’t get what they need to grow strong the first time, they will have to live with the effects for the rest of their lives.

There is no second chance.

When children are given the nutrition they need to grow strong and healthy, they will have considerably less health issues like Type 2 diabetes, Asthma, and Sleep Apnea as an adult. Their immune systems will be much stronger as well so they will be healthy enough to enjoy their lives.

It’s not fair to a child to have numerous sick days away from school and friends, or to be so exhausted doing simple tasks that all they have the energy to do is sit around and watch TV.

Overweight and Obese Kids

33.3% of children ages 2-17 are overweight or obese in the USA

30.3% of children ages 2-17 are overweight or obese in the UK

26% of children ages 2-17 are overweight or obese in Canada

Many adults struggle with food issues themselves and knowingly passing that on to their children is unfair. It is common for children to be encouraged to eat many foods that are obviously unhealthy, only to find out that as an adult, they need to learn how to eat a completely different way. Why not teach them the right way from the beginning?

According to the US Weight Loss and Diet Control Market, American’s spent 61 billion dollars on weight loss products last year. That is an incredible $800 per adult person who is overweight or obese.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake | Source

Food Is Fuel, Not a Tool

There is never any reason for anyone to be hungry. Hunger is just a way of the brain telling you that the body needs more fuel.

Food is not something you get if you’re good and something to be denied if you’re bad.

It is important that children learn to not associate food with emotions.

Celebrations, accomplishments, sorrow, and anger should not be programed around eating. Food should not be a reward, a comfort, a bribe, or a symbol of love.

Food is fuel, not a tool.

If a positive attitude and relationship with food can be established when a child is in their formidable years, they will have a much easier time as an adult.

Fast Food

1 out of 3 kids eat fast food every day.

The smallest meal offered at the average fast food restaurant has 870 calories. That is almost a whole day worth of calories for a toddler and over half of what a 4-5 year old should consume.

The large portions offered at the same restaurant has 1360 calories which a whole day worth of calories for an 8-11year old and over half of what a high school age kid needs per day.

It is important to realize that the calories aren’t the only consideration when eating these meals. These foods don’t contain the nutrition that children need.

As a result, they will be hungry again within a short time of eating them because their body will still be craving the fuel it needs.

Necessary and Suggested Calories For Each Age

(click column header to sort results)
Girls Calorie Intake  
Boys Calories Intake  
4-5 year olds
6-7 year olds
8 year olds
9-11 year olds
11-14 year olds
The lower end of the spectrum is intended for kids who aren’t very physical active and the higher end is for kids who are extremely active. Children who are involved in one sport or active class should fall right in the middle of the suggested calori

The Influence on The Brain And Behavior

The Feingold Diet has been around since the 1970’s and is basically the process of eliminating food additives and synthetic ingredients from a child’s diet.

This program has shown amazing improvements in children with ADHD, aggressive behavior, sever low tolerance levels and patients, concentration and learning deficits, and many more mental and psychological behaviors.

This program has repeatedly proven that there is a direct correlation between what children eat and how their bodies and brains react.

Nutrients from food are necessary for the brain to function properly. The brain needs protein and fats to develop and perform to best of its capability.

Egg and Cheese Breakfast Wrap with Fresh Melon
Egg and Cheese Breakfast Wrap with Fresh Melon | Source
Chia Oatmeal with Fresh Berries
Chia Oatmeal with Fresh Berries | Source

The Importance of Breakfast

A breakfast packed with protein and complex carbs like oatmeal or whole grain cereal is critical to school age kids in every stage. This gives them the ability to focus and be alert in the beginning of their day.

When children eat sugary cereals and pastries as their fuel first thing in the morning, they run out of gas shortly after the school bell rings. Lack of concentration and attention make learning and focusing in their class almost impossible.

It may be easier to give them the quick fix of something unhealthy because everyone is rushed in the morning or in an attempt to avoid an argument but it is really harmful to the child’s self-image and their education.

Good Lunch or Bad Lunch

When kids are in school, lunch is the time to refuel for the rest of their day. They are growing and developing so quickly that their body’s burn through breakfast in a few hours and they need a pick me up. The goal is protein and slow burning carbohydrates like whole grains.

If their lunch consists of prepackaged lunch substitutes or salty chips and soda, they don’t have the energy they need to focus and perform in the second half of their school day. Behavior problems frequently escalate in the latter half of the school day due to lack of patients and ability to concentrate.

School lunches may be approved by the FDA but they rarely cover even one of the basic nutrients a child needs to focus and learn. Many schools offer hamburgers and pizza every day to kids and the halls are lined with soda machines and energy drinks. There is a very little chance that children can get what they need from the school provided meal.

Different Dinner Choices

A balanced dinner will help them sleep better. Young bodies need nutrients to grow. If they don’t get what they need, their bellies may hurt and they will feel hungry again shortly after eating. A meal high in carbohydrates will quickly turn in to sugar and they will burn it up in no time.

A good compromise for kids who are used to eating hamburgers is to make a grilled chicken breast or turkey burger served on a whole wheat bun and no side dish. Although It is common to eat french fries or potato chips with a burger, the sandwich is really is enough food all by itself. Imagine eating it in pieces and it will become clearer. If a child eats a bottom bun, then a patty, then the top bun, it would be more than enough to satisfy them for one meal. When people see a hamburger all put together on a plate, it looks like one item and there is still room on that plate for more food. It is simply a matter of perception.

Peanut Butter Protein Cookies
Peanut Butter Protein Cookies | Source

A Snack is Just a Snack

Snacks are not a meal. Eating a snack between meals keeps the blood sugar level and energy supply flowing. Eating a piece of fruit, a small pack of nuts or a homemade protein cookie will keep hunger to a minimum until the next meal time.

Where to Start

There are a few simple yet highly effective tricks to help a child learn to avoid eating when they aren’t hungry and limit calorie intake:

  • Make a no eating in the car rule
  • No meals or snacking while watching TV
  • No eating in the bedroom or family room
  • Meals and snacks only eaten at the family table
  • Replace soda and juice with water
  • Replace white flour buns and bread with whole wheat breads and tortillas
  • Home baked French fries and chicken instead of deep fried

Fresh Carrot Sticks
Fresh Carrot Sticks | Source

Eating Out and About

When going out for the afternoon or evening, eat meals at home first and bring some snacks if you will be gone for an extended period of time.

Individual packets of nuts, fruit, and low fat string cheese are easy to eat anywhere.

Teach children that it is ok to attend a sporting event or carnival without eating while they are there.

When a child recalls memories about spending the day with their family at the fair, the first thing that comes to mind should be the most exciting ride they went on or what they won at the ring toss. Not which vendor had the best elephant ears or the tastiest barbeque.

bowl with fresh strawberries and grapes
bowl with fresh strawberries and grapes | Source

What Is Available and What Is Not

Make fresh fruit and vegetables always available and easily accessible.

If there is a bowl on the table or counter that has some fresh fruit and a plate in the refrigerator with some cut up carrots (no dip), everyone in the house has a quick fix for the munchies.

Take donuts, bagels, croissants and pop pastries off the menu. Fatty meats like bacon and sausage are filled with salt and preservatives and offer no nutrition that children need to get moving in the morning.

When the high fat, low nutrition food isn’t in the house, it eliminates the opportunity to sneak them and the possibility that the adult will give them to the child because of guilt or nagging.

Children Learn What They Live

Children rely on the adults in their lives to teach them and guide them. The lessons they learn in childhood will stick with them forever, they learn what they live.

Adults have the choice to either help them grow strong and confident or cripple them with self-loathing and the life long struggle of weight loss and medical issues.


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    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      I completely agree with you! It's more important than ever to teach our kids how to eat for fuel. Eating junk once in a while used to be the norm, now it's an everyday occurance unfortunately.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      1 out of 3 kids eat fast food everyday? That is a bunch of kids. We are very fortunate that both of our kids like healthy food, I know I was way more picky then they are when I was a kid.

      With obesity leading to so many problems later in life eating healthy is very important.

      Voted up and useful

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Mmargie1966! I really appreciate the support. :)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Alastar, unfortunately that is all too common. I see it a lot too, it's frustrating and sad.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      roxanne i know a famiy with three children and about all they get is spaghetti, canned food and bananas. Sure wish i could get the parent to read this but they probably wouldn't follow through if they did. Good article though.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Excellent Hub! Very well thought out, and you covered the psychological issues with food as well. It's not just a diet. Everybody should read this one! Voted and sharing!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Dig in! Carrots are a starchy veggie anyway, choose something green instead? ;)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      alliemacb, it is very scary! It's really hard to not use food for emotional reasons but it's really important.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Nettlemere! Someone made the comment to me the other day, "Food just brings people together". I just thought it was so sad.

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago

      Everything is so yummy! Wanna eat all, except carrot :D

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      The obesity statistics are so worrying. Your advice is really helpful and I especially like the message that food should not be used as a tool. Very useful information, so voted up.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      especially good advice about teaching children that it's ok to go to an event an not eat and also about taking your own snacks along.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Georgina! I think somewhere we just got lost and our kids are paying the price. I just hope it doesn't have to get worse before we realization that we need drastic change.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor

      Another great hub roxanne. When I was a young there was always one fat kid in the class, now it's the other way round, somewhere in each class there'll be a slim kid! We are awash with readily available, calorie dense, processed food and people have forgotten about nutrition. Your writing should help tip the balance the other way. Rating up.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you teaches12345! Your comments and input is always truely appreciated and respected. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I do like your saying that children learn what they live. Also, you are so right snacks are not a meal just something to keep the blood sugar in balance. An piece of fruit or a couple of whole wheat crackers is ample enough. Water, water, water is the best drink anyone can have with every meal and in between. Great advice and voted up.