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Teach Your Child About Nutrients

Good nutrition is essential to good health. It is never too early to teach your child the nutritional value of foods.

All humans need certain nutrients in adequate amounts to stay alive. Each nutrient has a special function in the body and works together with other nutrients to maintain the growth and repair of the body’s cells and tissues. Lack any one of the required nutrients and health is risked. Without proper nutrition we cannot function at our best.

In some areas of the world, it is nearly impossible to obtain needed nutrients in proper amounts. Unfortunately the people who live in these areas provide proof that maintaining a healthy body is dependent on having the nutrients the body requires.

What exactly are nutrients? Nutrients are substances we get from the foods we eat that create healthy bodies. There are forty nutrients in all, divided into six groups:

  • Carbohydrates, which contain energy
  • Protein, for building and repairing the body
  • Fats, which also provide energy, but in a concentrated form
  • Water, which cleans and hydrates the body, and regulates body temperature
  • Vitamins, which regulate bodily functions
  • Minerals, performing many functions in the body

Nutrients come to us from foods and liquids we consume, and are broken down into usable form by digestion. Whatever we don’t need is eliminated through the digestive system or the skin.

Vitamins can be broken down into groups: A, B, C, D, E and F. Each has a special set of jobs it does for the body. Vitamins work in balance with each other and with other nutrients. If you are deficient in any one nutrient, the body suffers in some way.

Most packaged and prepared foods now consumed come labeled with very detailed nutritional information. Take some time to look at the labels on foods to see what they do or don’t provide.

A good way to learn about nutrients and how much we need of each is to look at the New Food Pyramid designed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Generally, fresh and raw foods provide higher concentrations of usable nutrients. Eating a wide variety of foods will ensure you and your child are receiving an adequate amount of nutrients.

Teaching your child about nutrients will equip them with the knowledge to make good food choices. They will enjoy examining labels and selecting nutrient-packed foods.

Preschool

Even very young children like to be involved in choosing and preparing foods. Take them to the grocery store and make it an exciting game to pick the freshest most colorful fruits and vegetables. When you pick out cereals and breads go for the whole grains. Let your child know meats and dairy foods will make them strong! Shopping can be an adventure.

If you prepare healthy foods from the start they will likely gravitate toward those foods. Recognizing foods that are poor choices is just as important as knowing those that are good for them. Save the poorer choices for the occasional holiday or party celebration and be sure to serve healthy foods before and after.

Making sure your baby and toddler get enough water is tricky. Parents many times feel that water will fill their child up so that they will not eat other foods. But their bodies need at least 2-3 cups of water per day besides other drinks they consume. Sometimes having a fancy water bottle or special water cup can get them excited about drinking it.

Tell your little one “Good choice!” when they pick a healthy snack. Make sure to make nutrient dense foods available for snacking.

Main points to address:

  • Involve your child in food choices.
  • Serve the freshest and most colorful foods you can afford.
  • Make sure your preschooler gets enough water.

Grades K-3rd

Children learn about nutrients and healthy eating in school, but many times school cafeterias do not provide many fresh or whole grain food choices. Packing a lunch with your child might be a fun way to include more healthy foods in their day.

As soon as your child can read show them food labels. Make it a game to find the better choice. They will be more eager to eat it if they found it! Let them cook with you. See how colorful you can make it.

This age child is old enough to understand the food pyramid. Make sure you use the pyramid labeled “new”, as this depiction takes into account the differing food needs people have.

Main points to address:

  • Pack lunches with your child. Include high-nutrient choices.
  • If your child can read, involve them in finding the best food choices.
  • Use the “New Food Pyramid” to show the relative value of foods.

Grades 4-6th

Older children should know quite a bit about nutrition, but your child may need a refresher course. Having them teach a younger child about specific nutrients is a good way for them to review.

You may want to try allowing your child to plan a menu once or twice a week. Let them shop for the items that will be prepared and make all or part of the meal with you. They will be proud to serve a meal packed with nutrients.

Older children can pack their own lunches. Provide the best lunch foods you can and let them combine them. Having them prepare a healthy snack for their siblings and friends when they get home from school or play will give them an investment in eating right.

Main points to address:

  • Older children may need more specific information on nutrients.
  • Allow your child to plan and prepare a healthy meal with your assistance.
  • If older children prepare their own lunches and snacks, they may have a larger investment in eating healthy.

Resources

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Health.

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