Nutrition for School Age Children: What to Keep in Mind

Nutrition for school age children is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. We all need the same kinds of things, such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. However, children need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages. Poor nutrition can have a negative impact on both the quality of life of school-age children and their potential to benefit from education.

Achieving optimal nutrition involves eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, as well as limiting your intake of foods that are high in sugar and fat. Consuming generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products, including three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt to meet your calcium needs, can also prevent many medical problems such as being overweight, developing weak bones, and developing diabetes. Carbohydrates and fats provide energy for growth and physical activity. During periods of rapid growth, appetite increases and children tend to eat constantly.

When growth slows down, appetite decreases and children eat less at mealtime. The brain needs energy to function properly and, therefore, the supply of glucose is relevant and critical. Cognitively demanding tasks such as schoolwork require a regular supply of glucose to the brain to improve cognitive functioning and improve memory and mood. Protein builds, maintains and repairs body tissue.

It's especially important for growth. It's important for parents to encourage children to eat two to three servings of protein a day. Good sources of protein for children are meat, fish, poultry, milk and other dairy products. Calcium is important for strengthening bones and teeth.

Bone density is affected when calcium needs are not met during childhood. Osteoporosis, a weakened bone disease, affects a significant proportion of adults. This starts in childhood if diets don't provide enough calcium-rich foods. Milk and dairy products and some dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium.

Children need iron because of the rapid expansion of blood volume during growth.


, fish, poultry, and fortified breads and cereals are the best sources of iron in the diet. During the elementary school years, a greater proportion of meals may be eaten outside the home in the school environment. Most of these snacks that are consumed are high-fat foods.

Snacks can contribute up to a significant proportion of a school-age child's total daily energy and nutrient needs. As a result, the poor choice of snacks results in too many foods that are high in energy and low in nutrients. For example, savory snacks such as potato chips may have a low value because they provide few nutrients. There is a growing trend of overweight and obesity among school-age children which is mainly due to reduced physical activity.

Focusing on reducing obesity and improving diet and physical activity is therefore a priority in many countries. Obesity is a nutritional disorder and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Obesity is also implicated in the development of insulin resistance which limits the body's ability to absorb glucose. Studies indicate that children have too much fat in their diets following high-fat diets and less physical activity lead to a positive energy balance which can be a predisposition to lifelong health problems (for example hyperlipidemia cardiovascular problems type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity) in older adulthood.

Iron deficiency anemia may develop in children whose diet is deficient in iron. Iron is a component of the blood that carries oxygen. Anemia in school-age children can have harmful effects such as lower school performance due to impaired cognitive development lack of attention and general fatigue. A study involving 5398 children between the ages of 6 and 16 in the United States found that people with iron deficiency scored lower on standardized math tests.

Iron-deficient boys were twice as likely to score lower than average on math tests; this finding was more pronounced among girls. It's also important to eat healthy snacks after school as these snacks can provide up to a quarter of the day's total calorie intake. Always talk to your child's healthcare provider about your child's needs for healthy eating and exercise. A recent review of research on the effects of zinc iodine iron and folic acid deficiencies on the cognitive development of school-age children showed that nutrition has an impact on children's ability to think.

In a randomized controlled trial six months of treatment with fatty acid supplements in 102 dyslexic school-age children significantly improved reading age on standardized single-word reading tests. Oils are not a food group but some such as nut oils contain essential nutrients and can be included in the diet. Keep in mind that the MyPlate plan is designed for people over 2 years old who don't have chronic health problems. The use of precooked foods which tend to be high in fat is one of the main determinants of nutritional problems.

Providing an adequate diet for school-age children will improve learning capacity and prevent diseases in adults such as ischemic heart disease high blood pressure some types of cancer and diabetes. To prevent dehydration encourage children to drink fluids regularly during physical activity and to drink several glasses of water or other liquid after physical activity is finished. Proper nutrition for school-age children will also ensure that they develop their full potential and provide the stepping stones to healthy living. As a result parents must establish a positive food culture by planning meals providing a variety of foods setting a good example - involving children in the collection and preparation of food -  and referring to the food pyramid when planning family meals.