Nutritional Guidelines for Kids

The years following toddlerhood are like a quiet after the storm. Kids tend to be more settled. Their eating likes and dislikes are fairly well established, and you, as a parent, finally relax, right?

Not so fast. Studies show a positive correlation between parent and child eating habits and that this a critical time to make sure that foods you bring into your home are wholesome and delicious. Eating habits that last a lifetime take firm hold now and the foods you prefer and eat on a regular basis have a definite impact on your child's preferences. Face it- they're at the age to notice whether or not you practice what you preach -- if milk is so important, why do you drink a diet soda?

In a study, done in Nebraska, it was found that kids eat better when they have company at meals. Slimmer children and their mothers talk more with each other and eat less, more slowly than fatter children and their moms. What a good reason to have family meals with lots of lively conversation!

As with toddlers, removing food contingencies (e.g. "clear your plate if you want dessert.") relieves the pressure to eat unwanted food. Keep alive your child's innate ability to recognize hunger and satiation and their ability to act on it. In a recent study, 95% of kids who had a calorically dense morning snack ate less lunch than after they ate a low calorie snack. Only 60% of adults did! Don't make your kids a member of the clean plate club if they don't want to be.

Food and TV:
Kids younger than ten, watch commercials more closely and less discerningly than their older, more cynical, siblings, and nearly half the commercials they see advertise food. And most of the commercials emphasize flavor -- "sweetness," "richness," "chocolatiness" -- of the foods they are touting and rarely focus on the relationship between the food and health. Of course, taste is an important consideration, but it is only one part of the decision to eat something.

Taking the time to analyze a commercial or two with your child can help him or her become a savvy viewer -- limiting the amount of TV they watch isn't a bad idea either. After all, TV watching is a sedentary activity that has been linked to obesity in children!

Feeding your 3 to 7 year old:
Kids' appetites will start to pick up now as they enter a period of steady growth. They will still have definite likes and dislikes, and maybe even some idiosyncratic eating behavior, like not allowing their foods to touch each other on the plate. Your casual acceptance of their benign quirky behavior will ensure its transience, and your respect for their likes and dislikes will make them more willing to at least try new things when you ask.

Because they are bigger, they can hold more and eat less often. That's three squares and a couple of snacks a day. (An after school snack is almost as essential as a regular meal). You may see a gradual acceptance of new foods but many kids continue to reject unfamiliar foods and pass on the vegetables. They seem to like simple, unmixed dishes more than casseroles, food at room temperature rather than hot or cold. Most also reject strong flavors and are discouraged from eating when portions are too big.

To meet their daily nutritional requirements, kids should eat:


Some More Good Habit Forming ideas:


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