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Guidelines for children's healthful eating

food pyramid

The portion size recommendations below are for children who get about 30 minutes of exercise each day. Portion sizes and the types of foods can be adjusted for children who are more active or those who are more sedentary and for those children who need to gain or lose weight. For example, to reduce calories you can use less fat in cooking, choose lean meats and use less sugar. To increase calories you can substitute whole mike for 1% or 2% milk, increase the size or number of healthful snacks such as fruits and peanut butter.

On the pyramid, each color represents a different food group:

Orange: grains ” Make half your grains whole”

Green: vegetables “Vary your Veggies”

Red: fruits “Focus on fruit” (eat a variety)

Blue: dairy and calcium-rich food “Build strong bones”

Purple: proteins (meats, beans, and fish) “Go lean with protein”

Yellow: fats and oils “Limit your fat, salt and sugar”

Recommend portions for GRAINS: What’s an ounce? Each of the following equals about 1 ounce: 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta, ½ cup of oatmeal.

2- to 3-year-olds: 3 ounces, 4- to 8-year-olds: 4 to 5 ounces, 9- to 13-year-old girls: 5 ounces and boys: 6 ounces, 14- to 18-year-old girls: 6 ounces and boys: 7 ounces

Recommended portions for VEGETABLES: 2- 2 to 3-year-olds: 1 cup,4- to 8-year-olds: 1½ cups, 9- to 13-year-old girls: 2 cups and boys : 2½ cups,14- to 18-year-old girls: 2½ cups and boys: 3 cups

Recommended portions for FRUITS: 2- to 3-year-olds: 1 cup, 4- to 8-year-olds: 1½ cups, 9- to 13-year-old girls: 1½ cups and boys: 1½ cups, 14- to 18-year-old girls: 1½ cups and boys: 2 cups

Recommended portions for MILK and DAIRY PRODUCTS: 2- to 3-year-olds: 2 cups, 4- to 8-year-olds: 2 cups, 9- to 13-year-old girls: 3 cups and boys: 3 cups, 14- to 18-year-old girls: 3 cups and 14- to 18-year-old boys: 3 cups

Recommend portions for PROTEIN FOODS (Meat, Fish, Beans, and Nuts): 2- to 3-year-olds: 2 ounces, 4- to 8-year-olds: 3 to 4 ounces, 9- to 13-year-old girls: 5 ounces and boys 5 ounces, 14- to 18-year-old girls: 5 ounces and boys: 6 ounces

In addition to meat, fish and poultry, good protein sources for kids are: ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds.

Recommended portions for FATS and OILS and SWEETS:

Fats and oils provide essential nutrients and energy but should be used sparingly. Many foods are high in fat such as peanut butter, avocados, and some fish and processed meats. Sugar is found in fruits and in many baked goods and should be eaten sparingly.

More information on nutrients in each of these food groups will be found in future articles on this site.

A good reference for further information is mypyramid.gov that gives you nutrition information for both adults and parents and has interactive games for children age 6-11 years.

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