Necessary Nutrients for Kids
(The Freeman) - June 24, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Parents naturally want the best health for their children. And so they spend a lot of time and energy choosing healthy foods for the kids, often scanning food labels for amounts of sugar, protein, and vitamins. They want to give the kids the right nutrients for their growth and brain development.

It’s really a challenge to find the right food for growing kids and to create nutritious meals that appeal to the little ones’ appetites. Most kids prefer something sweet. Some kids like sweet fruits, while others go straight for anything sugary.

Kids are either picky eaters, or snackers, or the try-anything type, but they all need the right amount and mix of nutrients to help them grow healthy brains and bodies. Especially between the ages of 4 and 13, kids go through major physical and mental growth. Healthy eating fuels those changes.

What nutrients are most important for kids’ growth, how much should they eat, and why? Susan Bernstein, at the website, quotes Susanna Huh, MD, associate director of the Center of Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital: “It’s important that children get a balanced diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and a small amount of healthy fats. A balanced diet will provide virtually all the nutrients that children need.”

Bernstein shares a quick list to help parents put together good meals and snacks for the kids:

Protein. It builds muscles and other tissues in kids’ bodies. Plus, it helps boost their immune systems.

How much kids need: 3-5 ounces per day for children 2-8 years old, or 5-8 ounces for kids ages 10-14.

Good sources: Fish, chicken, turkey, lean meats, nuts, eggs, milk, yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter, and edamame.

Iron. This nutrient helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the body, and it helps children grow. Without it, kids can get anemia.

How much kids need: Around 10 milligrams a day for 4- to 8-year-olds. After that, 8 milligrams a day.

Good sources: Red meat, beans, green leafy vegetables, tuna, eggs, dried beans, iron-fortified cereal.

Vitamin D. This builds strong, healthy bones.

How much kids need: 600 international units per day for children of all ages.

Good sources: Vitamin D is rare in foods, but it can be found added to some dairy products and cereals. Kids may need a multivitamin to get enough, says dietitian Kathy Pertzborn, RD. Sunlight can also give children vitamin D, but they shall not get too much – it raises their risk for skin cancer.

Calcium. It also builds strong bones, which store the nutrient for years.

How much kids need: 1,000 milligrams per day for children 4-8, and 1,300 milligrams per day for kids 9-13.

Good sources: Dairy products like milk, and fortified soy milk, tofu, and dry cereals. Serve kids 2 cups of milk per day. Avoid dark sodas, which have phosphoric acid and make it harder for kids’ bones to absorb calcium.

Healthy Fats. Fat gets a bad rap, but the good kinds are key for brain and nerve growth, especially for infants and toddlers. These also help with healthy metabolism, blood clotting, and letting the body absorb vitamins.

How much kids need: 30 percent of their overall diet should be fats, mostly unsaturated.

Good sources: Breastmilk for infants; vegetable oils like olive, safflower, corn, or soy, or proteins like fish or chicken for kids older than 2. The fatty acids in salmon, flaxseed, or walnuts are healthy for children, too.

Vitamin C. This nutrient helps kids build their brains and immune systems, promotes healing from cuts and scrapes, and gets their bodies to absorb iron.

How much kids need: 25 milligrams per day for children 4-8, and 45 milligrams per day for children 9-13.

Good sources: Fresh fruits and vegetables like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi fruit, cabbage, peppers, and fresh juices.

Children that are started with nutritious foods are likely to carry the habit on to their grownup years. That way, eating healthy and properly becomes automatic with them. And they will stand a good chance of being able to ward off ailments, whether at age 2 or 92! Leonora Caballero

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