Nutrition Facts for Kids & Healthy Food Labels
A well-balanced diet is the primary fuel for healthy a healthy life and healthy growth, this is especially important for children. This is why it is vital to give children the nutrients that they need so that their bodies can function and grow optimally.
In order for the body to have the ability to operate as it should, it must be properly fed. Getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is extremely important because then the body will perform better, both physically and mentally.
Daily Recommended Nutritional Value
There are five main food groups recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), each of which provides a specific group of nutrients needed for growth. Currently, for children, the FDA recommends a diet containing mainly fruits, vegetables, high quality protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy), grains, and healthy fats for overall health, and optimal growth.
Each food group has its own nutritional benefits. For example, whole grains provide a healthy source of energy because they are a fiber-rich complex carbohydrate. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of fiber, as well as packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The protein food group is important for muscle development, growth support, and provide essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc.
It is recommended that children have 5 ounces of grains (preferably whole grains), at least 2 cups of vegetables, 1 ½ cups of fruit, 2-3 servings of dairy, and 4-5 oz of protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs) daily.
How To Read A Food Label
It is vital to get into the habit of reading food labels regularly to know exactly what is in your food. Becoming skilled at label reading can help you make the best choices for you and your family.
The first thing you should look at on a food label is serving size. There may be multiple servings in the item, regardless if it is just one package or container. For example, although a nutrition label says that 1 serving of juice is 250 calories, it does not mean that the whole bottle is 250 calories. If there are 2 servings, that means the bottle of juice is actually 500 calories. This is why you must be mindful of the servings on the label before figuring out the exact nutrient content. It is also important to consider where the calories are coming from. Not all calories are created equal!
Below the listed caloric number, you should also examine the nutritional facts for information on the various nutrients that you or your child need such as protein and fiber, while also checking to make sure that added sugar and sodium are as low as possible.
Additionally, you can look at the percent of daily value, DV%, for these nutrients to understand how much of that nutrient should be incorporated into your daily diet. For example, 5% DV is considered low and 20% DV is considered high. Food label percents are based on a 2000 calorie diet, which is not ideal for everyone.
Food Facts For Kids
Here are a few simple tips and tricks to guarantee a consistently healthy diet:
Portion out snacks ahead of time
• Read the label of your child’s favorite snack, making sure you have the appropriate serving size and proper nutrients, and put it in a Ziploc baggie or Tupperware container. This way you have a grab-n-go snack ready to go, and it is perfectly portioned.
Read nutrition labels in the checkout line
• While waiting in line at the grocery store, you can pass the time by double checking the nutrient labels for extra additives and processed ingredients.
• Make easy and smart ingredient swap decisions about whenever you can. For example, choose whole wheat bread or pita instead of white bread, mashed avocado instead of mayo (good fat vs. bad fat), or an apple for fiber instead of candy or gummies (which fills you up!).
Look at nutrition labels at restaurants
• It can be difficult to receive all of the nutrition facts about the food you order as not all restaurants have every food item mapped out in detail. However, you can choose a restaurant that does provide this type of information ahead of time to ensure you’re picking a healthy option for your child.
Swap out one item at a restaurant
• If there is something on the menu your child wants, but it is not the healthiest option, try swapping out one or more of the ingredients to make it healthier. For example, if there is a burger they are craving, try asking for it on a whole wheat pita or in a lettuce bun instead of a white bread roll.
• When you’re at the grocery store, compare labels of foods to make sure you’re getting the most nutrient-dense items.