Children need a balance of food intake and exercise to maintain an appropriate weight and good health (without dieting)! When children eat healthy foods and get plenty of physical activity, they usually find an energy balance that helps them maintain their appropriate weight.
Keep Energy Balance
- Give small portions of higher fat foods and larger portions of fruits and vegetables.
- Teach children to recognize when they are full by asking whether they are hungry or thirsty before you give them a snack.
- Substitute more nutritious lower fat foods for others.
- Prepare nutritious snacks ahead of time to take with you when you leave home.
- Limit TV, computer and video game time to less than two hours per day.
- Make sure your child is active for a minimum of one hour (total) throughout the day.
- Ask your children to help you clean house and let them sweep, pick up and dust.
- Let your child have higher fat and higher calorie meals and snacks on days when his activity is high, such as days when he plays soccer, and lower fat/lower calorie meals on days when his activity is lower.
- Diets can be dangerous for young children’s growth and development.
- Diets can damage brain development, create lifetime health problems and cause bones and teeth to form improperly.
- Only a doctor should ever put a child on a diet, and then it should be supervised very carefully.
- Instead of dieting, provide foods that are lower in fat and that are the appropriate portion size.
- As your child grows, his height will increase while his weight stays the same until he is at a weight normal for his height and age.
Remember that you decide what (types of food and portions), where and when food is offered. Your child decides how much he will eat!
What about School or Childcare?
Tips for Parents
- Tell teachers if your child has any food issues.
- Inform teachers in writing of your cultural and religious food preferences.
- Be flexible in working with changes to meal and snack routines.
- Set a meeting with the teacher if there are concerns about the nutritional practices of the school’s program.
- Understand that preferences regarding eating and food may not be accommodated if they interfere with teaching or cause difficulties with other children.
- Alert teachers about any food allergies the child has.
Tips for Teachers
- Inform parents about any changes in eating patterns.
- Follow parental requests concerning their child when possible.
- Tell the parent if a request – such as bottle feeding a two-year-old or serving only one food to their child – cannot be honored and why.
- Post food allergies or health concerns related to food, so that substitutes and others can see them when preparing meals.
- Honor cultural practices regarding food for children.
- Give positive input regarding nutritious, appropriate meals for children.
- Explain how family-style dining works with young children, and point out its benefits to parents or caregivers.
What is a calorie?
Calories are the way our bodies get energy. But too many calories lead to weight problems and too few calories means we have energy problems and not enough weight.
- Calories come from the food we eat.
- Calories are used up by our body as energy.
- The more active you are, the more calories you burn.
- Games such as tag for 30 minutes will burn around 100 calories.
- When we don’t use up all the calories we take in, they are stored in the body as fat.
- When you take in more calories than you use up, you gain weight.
- When you take in fewer calories than you use up, you lose weight.
- The goal is balance: using up all the calories you take in, but not more.
Total Calories needed for one day:
- Toddlers (1-3 years): 1000-1400 calories
- Preschoolers (4-6 years): 1200-1800 calories
- In general, less than 30% of daily calories should come from fat for children over 2 years of age.
- Calorie intake varies based on a child’s age, sex and activity level.
For more information, go to www.mypyramid.gov.
Some children are just naturally active and move constantly. Other children prefer quiet activities and tend to be slower in their movements. All children need to be active and learn how to enjoy activities that get them to move. Our job as parents and teachers is to help them develop an enjoyment of being active so that we set the stage for a lifetime of healthy activity!
The benefits of exercise and energy balance for children
- Helps children build healthy bones
- Decreases blood pressure
- Can reduce depression and anxiety
- Can improve fitness and weight in overweight children
- Is related to higher self-esteem
- Can lessen symptoms of diseases, such as asthma and cardiovascular problems, in children
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves social skills through group sports and activities
- are healthier
- are emotionally and socially more capable
- maintain a healthy weight
Promoting Children’s Activity
- Should explore their world and develop skills by interacting with caregivers and by moving
- Need to be put in safe places where they can move and should not be restricted for long periods
- Need at least a total of 90 minutes per day of active play throughout the day
- Need at least a total of 2 hours per day of active play throughout the day.