Nutritional Guidelines for Your Kids

TV and Food Choices: Kids younger than ten, watch commercials more closely than their more cynical older siblings. Some can't even differentiate between the commercials and the programs. Nearly half of all commercials they see when watching advertise food, and an even higher percentage of food commercials are aired during children's programming. Most of those commercials aren't touting the nutritional superiority of their foods. Instead, they are selling "sweetness," "richness," "chocolatiness." They're encouraging food choices based not on physiological need, but on flavor. Of course a food has to taste good before we'll eat it, but that's just the one part of the decision to eat something. These commercials can influence your child's nutritional intake in several ways if you let it.

  • Commercials influence what you buy:
  • They influence the use of food for purposes other than to satisfy hunger
  • The commercials seldom show the relationship between the food consumed and the impact on health.

Top those hard-to-combat influences off with the fact that TV watching is a sedentary activity that has been linked to obesity in children! There doesn't seem to be a good relationship between television watching and nutritional health, and it starts with kids. The best way to combat the problem is to limit TV, and when it is watched, take time to analyze a commercial or two with them so your youngster can become savvy to the ways of the marketing experts. Remember, those marketing experts consulted with kids before designing their foods and commercials so your kids should catch right on.

Feeding your three to seven 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 food to touch each other on the plate. Your casual acceptance of their benign quirky behavior will ensure that they are transient. 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, go for longer, and so eat less often, five or fewer times per day on average. That's three squares and a couple of snacks. (An after school snack is almost as essential as a regular meal). You may see an gradual acceptance of new foods, but nothing dramatic. Many kids continue to reject unfamiliar foods and pass on the vegetables. They seem to like simple, unmixed dishes more than casseroles and they like food at room temperature rather than hot or cold. Most reject strong flavors and are discouraged from eating when portions are too big.


Here's what they need to eat on a daily basis to make sure they meet their nutritional requirements

  • 2 to 3 cups of milk (or 1 /2 oz cheese or 1 /2 cup yogurt for each 1/ 2 cup milk)
  • 2 servings of meat of one to two ounces each (or an egg, peanut butter, tofu, legumes)
  • 4 to 5 one quarter cup servings of vegetables and fruits (that's one small apple, a half of a banana, three carrots sticks, mashed potatoes, four or five strawberries, a half cup of juice) Be sure to serve vitamin C rich foods daily, and a good source of vitamin A at least three to four times a week)
  • 4 servings of grain foods ( 1 slice bread, 1 /2 cup pasta, 5 saltines, 1 /2 cup cooked cereal) Have set mealtimes. Make sure your child is hungry when she comes to the table, that way she's not only more inclined to eat, she's more apt to enjoy the food. Develop strategies to help your child wait to eat, even when she's hungry. Keep her away from where the food is being prepared if necessary. Perhaps Dad can read a favorite story why you get the meal on the table?

Eating skills are still being developed. It's inevitable that she'll spill on occasion, and leave a mess around her plate. The less you criticize the better off she'll be. Studies show that kids do less well nutritionally the more they are criticized. That doesn't mean you can't set reasonable limits and expectations. Certain behaviors just don't belong at the table.

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