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A Food Pyramid for Children

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Food Pyramid Child Nutrition Teenage

Food pyramids are a good tool to use when feeding children and teaching them about nutrition as a visual guide to the amounts and ratios of foods they are eating is something that very young children can easily understand, while older children can be encouraged to take part in menu planning and shopping, cooking and experiencing new foods as a way of shaping their own food pyramid.

Good Nutrition Is Vital For Child Health

All children need a good balanced diet to help them thrive, and recent concerns about children’s diets have led to new guidelines for children’s food in the UK, and initiatives such as encouraging children to eat better food at school through the school meals programme and Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food which aims to teach people to cook and then get them to pass on their cooking skills to others.

A good diet helps children to avoid obesity and diabetes later in life, promotes good concentration in school and gives the energy necessary for regular exercise with promotes strong bones, a good self-image and high self esteem.

Food Pyramids And Preteens

It can be relatively easy to control a child’s food intake, and the younger they are, the more control parents and carers have over the food they eat. The same food pyramid guidelines apply to children as to adults, except that children under around eight should always be given full fat milk, although they can have lower fat cheeses and yoghurts if they are concerned about their weight or wish to eat the same food as the rest of the family.

The food eaten in childhood can shape our eating habits for life, it is very important that children learn to eat well.

No more than 30% of a child’s daily dietary calories should come from fats, and these fats should, as far as possible be unsaturated fats such as olive, peanut and sunflower oils, and not saturated fats which are found in red meats and processed meats, dairy foods, and some forms of solid fats like coconut and palm fats because these fats are more cholesterol-inducing than unsaturated ones – where possible you should limit your child’s intake of saturated fats to not more than 10% of their daily calories.

Food Pyramids And Teenagers

Teenage boys are often very active – if they take part in sport or are otherwise very fit, they will require around 2800 calories a day. Teenage girls often worry about their weight and appearance and should be encouraged to eat healthily and not indulge in fad diets which are often designed for adults, not young people – an active teenage girl probably requires around 2200 calories a day.

Overweight children need fewer calories but because growing bones and hormonal changes both demand high levels of nutrition, even overweight children may need more calories than an adult and if they wish to lose weight, should be encouraged to take more exercise and eat more healthily, but not less, for several months. Should that not provide enough weight reduction, a doctor or nutritionist should advise on a tailored diet that will meet their nutritional needs but help with weight loss.

Older teenagers can become very faddy eaters and while girls may go on strange diets, boys are equally prone to suddenly limiting their food groups to only one or two items (often pizza, chips and similarly unhealthy foods) which can make parents and carers very concerned.

Rather than enforcing food rules, it is a good idea to see this kind of eating as a temporary rebellion of the kind that teens often indulge in. Display the food pyramid prominently around the house as a reminder of good eating patterns.

Try and ‘slide’ better food into the child by, for example, supplying bananas or other fruit in lunch packs. Offering a favourite breakfast cereal and some skimmed milk as a snack when the teenager is watching TV is another alterative of better food, also, making your own healthier pizza for family dinners.

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