A Children’s Guide to Eating Healthy

By Summer Banks
Eating is the most important thing you do each day. Food fuels your body and keeps you energized. It helps you grow, think, and play. But, not all food is equal. In fact, many foods have more chemicals than nutrients. Unfortunately for you, the makers of these unhealthy foods often use advertisements that encourage you to eat their products. It is hard to turn down prizes and lucky leprechauns that tell you, “they’re magically delicious!” even when you know these foods are unhealthy to eat. Although an occasional treat is not going to hurt, it is important to know how and what to eat for your health.

Fruits

Maybe you have heard the saying, “an apple a day will keep the doctor away.” Although eating an apple every day is not going to keep you from getting sick or from visiting the doctor from time to time, it does have its benefits. Fruit provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that your body needs. Vitamin C and potassium are just two of the major nutrients that you get from eating fruit, and both of these promote growth, health, and well-being.

As a child, you need to have one to two cups of fruit every day depending on your age, sex, and level of activity. One cup of fruit is equal to one large apple, one large orange, one banana, eight large strawberries, or one medium pear. If you would rather not eat a piece of fresh fruit, you can have one cup of 100% fruit juice or a half-cup of dried fruit.

Vegetables

Contrary to popular belief, vegetables are not your enemy. In fact, vegetables provide your growing body with potassium, fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C. All of these nutrients help prevent illnesses and keep your body healthy. As a child, you need one and a half cups to three cups of vegetables per day. One cup of vegetables equals one large ear of corn, one medium potato, a cup of salad greens, two large sticks of celery, or about 12 baby carrots. You can also drink your vegetables by having a cup of 100% vegetable juice. For those of you who aren’t crazy about eating vegetables, try hiding them in other things, like desserts or bread; there are lots of recipes out there where the vegetables are hidden in something tasty.

Grains

Do you like to run and play? If so, you need to make sure you eat enough grains to fuel your body. Grains provide energy. As a child, you need three to eight ounces of grains every day. One ounce of grains can come from one bagel, two slices of bread, five whole-wheat crackers, a half-cup of oatmeal, or one pancake. As you run around, your body uses up the food you have eaten. If you eat grain products such as white bread and sugary cereal, you will feel a rush of energy for a few moments, and then you will find yourself very tired and possibly hungry. But if you eat grains high in nutrients, such as whole wheat, brown rice, and oats, your body processes these much slower, which keeps your energy high. Grains also provide your body with B vitamins, iron, and magnesium.

Proteins

You have probably heard that protein is good for you, but do you know why? Protein is important to your growth because it builds muscle. It also provides your body with iron, vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc. All of these nutrients are needed for your body’s health and growth. However, some proteins aren’t as good for you as others. For example, eating regular ground beef or fried chicken supplies your body with fats that can cause heath problems. But if you choose lean meats, fish, and nuts, you will stay healthy and strong.

As a child, you need only two to six and a half ounces of protein each day. One ounce of protein is equal to one egg, one can of tuna, or one slice of turkey. A small steak is equal to four ounces, and one small chicken breast equals three ounces. Protein amounts add up quickly, so be sure to pay attention to what you eat.

Dairy

Milk does a body good, especially when you are a child. Dairy products are your main source of calcium, which will help your bones grow and keep your teeth strong. Although it is always a good idea to include dairy products in your diet, it is very important when you are a child because this is when your bones are growing, which is why children need two to three cups of dairy each day. You can get this by drinking a cup of lowfat milk, eating one container of yogurt, or having one and a half cups of ice cream. Like with proteins, there are dairy products that are not as good for you. Try to stick to lowfat options so that you don’t build up unhealthy fats in your body.

Oils

Last but not least is oils: yes, oils. Although oil isn’t really a food group, your body does need small amounts of it. Oils provide the fatty acids that your body needs to work properly. You get oils from nuts, fish, cooking oil, or salad dressings. As a child, you need three to six ounces per day, but be careful that you are getting it the right way. For example, eating fried food isn’t the best way to get essential oils. It would be better for you to have two tablespoons of Italian dressing on a salad or eat half of an avocado. Remember, you need fat in your diet, but not too much.

About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.