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Most parents worry about their child getting good nutrition. Their confusion can often be the result of conflicting information. Every time a new study hits the headlines, it can call into question whether or not we are making smart choices for our families.

Fortunately, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed guidelines for both children and adults in relation to calorie intake, amount of exercise required, and daily values of nutrients depending on age and gender.

The most recent guidelines
The most recent guidelines are titled “2015 to 2020” and can be downloaded at:
Health.gov

It is 144 pages long, but a few of the key points and appendices will give you a good idea of what is most important in your child’s diet.

The basics
The basics are on page xii.

1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
No matter how old you are, healthy eating should be a way of life

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
Eating a range of foods can help you get a balanced diet. Avoid empty calories from things like soda and cookies and eat measured portions of healthy foods.

3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
Sugar and fat are wasted calories because they lack nutrition. Salt can increase blood pressure and cause weight gain through water retention and bloating. Foods high in sugar, fat and salt, such as fast food, also tend to be addictive and lead to food cravings and overeating.

4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
Making smarter choices will often result in fewer calories consumed, and healthy weight loss or weight maintenance.

5. Support healthy eating patterns for all
In the US, food and drink are an important part of our society. We can all support each other by making smarter choices at the holidays, in the lunch room at school or work, and more. Menus in restaurants that show the calorie counts, for example, can be a big help.
A healthy eating plan

On page xiii, we see their general guidelines as to what to eat:

* A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
* Fruits, especially whole fruits
* Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
* Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
* A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds

The Daily Values
On page 98, you will find the daily value charts. Look up the details in relation to your child’s age and gender.

The Appendices
Appendices 10 through 13, pages 104 to 118, highlight the following:

* Potassium
* Calcium
* Vitamin D
* Fiber

So they are clearly felt to be important as part of a healthy diet.

Take the time to read through the document and use all you learn to start planning healthy meals for your whole family.

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