Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easy Nutritional Guidelines For Children

Some of the vegetables with the highest nutrient content are broccoli, bell peppers (all colors), spinach, tomatoes, carrots, squash, and Brussels sprouts. Try to get at least three of these into your child every day—11/2 to 21/2 cups total, either in purees or as vegetable side dishes. In my experience, the five top vegetables for nutrition and kid friendliness are, in this order:
• red bell peppers
• baby carrots
• broccoli
• tomatoes
• sugar snap peas

As popular with kids but a bit less nutritious are: green beans, peas, corn, cucumbers, and lettuce.Frozen peas and corn, especially, can be prepared in a matter of minutes.

Fresh Fruits
Some of the best fruits are strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, oranges, red apples, bananas, pink grapefruit, melon, kiwi fruit, and red grapes. Shoot for at least two a day. And remember, the actual fruit is more nutritious than its juice.

Whole Grains
Whole grains are grains that contain all three parts of the natural grain: bran, endosperm, and germ (all three elements make whole grains highly nutritious). That means brown or wild rice instead of white, whole-grain or whole-wheat bread instead of white, and whole-grain or whole-wheat pasta instead of regular, white (refined) semolina. When reading bread and cereal labels, don’t be fooled by terms like “multi-grain” or “5-grain”—the first ingredient should contain the word “whole” or “oats.” Aim for at least three servings a day and don’t hesitate to mix white rice with brown or wild, and regular pasta with whole wheat if your kids balk.

Calcium-Rich Foods
The number-one source of calcium for children (after the age of two) is skim or lowfat (1%) milk. But don’t forget other lowfat dairy products such as lowfat yogurt and cottage cheese and reduced-fat cheese—
aim for three plus servings a day. (Lowfat dairy can be a better source of calcium than full fat, by volume, because removing the artery-clogging fat often makes room for more calcium.) Other good nondairy sources are:
• Green vegetables (particularly broccoli and kale)
• Beans (specifically white beans and soy beans)
• Tofu (best if the label says “good source of calcium”)
• Calcium-fortified foods such as some brands of whole-grain waffles and orange juice. Calcium needs go up as children age. Children ages 9 through 18 need 1,300 mg of calcium, or approximately 4 servings a day of calcium-rich food.

Lean Source of Protein
The best sources of protein for children are: turkey breast, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, fish and seafood, tofu, turkey/veggie burgers, lowfat dairy, edamame (fresh soybeans), beans—such as black, kidney, navy, and pinto—and eggs. Here are some examples of protein amounts, in grams, for several foods that your kids are likely to be eating:
• Grilled chicken (3 ounces or 1 palmsized piece): 21 grams
• Turkey burger (4 ounces): 21 grams
• Yogurt (6-ounce container): 6–8 grams
• Lowfat (1%) milk (1 cup): 8 grams
• Peanut butter (2 tablespoons): 8 grams
• Tofu (3 ounces): 7 grams
• 1 egg: 6 grams
• Nuts (1⁄4 cup): 6–8 grams
• Veggie burger: 5–10 grams
• 1 slice pizza: 12 grams
• 1 string cheese: 8 grams
A rule of thumb is that kids need to eat approximately half their body weight in grams of protein a day. For example, a 70 pound child needs about 35 grams of protein a day.

We’re all hearing a lot about fiber these days. Insoluble fiber helps keep the pipes clean! That is, it helps prevent and treat constipation, and helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly. It has also been shown to protect against obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Another kind of fiber, soluble fiber, helps whisk cholesterol away before it’s digested, and can stabilize blood-sugar levels in kids. If you offer a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, your children should be getting plenty of fiber.

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