Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages.
Consider these nutrient-dense foods:
- Protein. Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Fruits. Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruits — rather than fruit juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it's 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her servings. Look for canned fruit that says it's light or packed in its own juice, meaning it's low in added sugar. Keep in mind that one-quarter cup of dried fruit counts as one cup-equivalent of fruit. When consumed in excess, dried fruits can contribute extra calories.
- Vegetables. Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options lower in sodium.
- Grains. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. Limit refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice.
- Dairy. Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.