Creating a Healthy Dietary Plan for Kids: What to Know

Focusing on nutrient-rich foods is essential for children to get the nutrients they need while limiting total calories. Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults, with the same types of nutrients required, such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. However, children need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages. This article looks at the findings on food and nutrient intake by infants and children, comparing it with current dietary guidelines and dietary reference intakes (DRI).

It also covers special nutritional considerations related to weight, bone health, and iron status. Key foods and nutrients that should be promoted or that are a cause for concern are identified. Unfortunately, nutritional deficiencies can occur in children when their diets include an excess of foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. These usually come in the form of candies (chips, chocolates, candies, soft drinks) or processed foods (such as takeaway foods). Kids who don't eat a varied diet that includes enough fresh, whole foods are at risk of long-term health consequences.

The nutritional standards for the meals and snacks served at the CACFP are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the scientific recommendations of the National Academy of Medicine, practical and cost considerations, and the opinions of stakeholders. Nutrition and physical activity throughout life are important for bone health, but these factors are especially important during years of bone growth and calcium accumulation. Adolescents who restrict their intake of animal products (meat and dairy products) are especially at risk of iron and calcium deficiencies, especially if they choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Treats and processed foods (chips, chocolates, candies, pastries, cookies and takeaway food) should be limited to special occasions and eaten in moderation according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. These discrepancies limited the committee's ability to draw conclusions about the appropriateness of energy intake using survey data. However, nationally representative data on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood are compelling reasons for concern about excessive calorie intake (see “Weight Status” in “Special Nutritional Considerations” later in this chapter).Creating a healthy dietary plan for children requires taking into account their age-specific nutrient needs as well as their individual preferences.

It is essential to focus on nutrient-rich foods while limiting processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt. It is also important to ensure that adolescents who restrict their intake of animal products get enough iron and calcium from other sources.