Children are notoriously picky eaters, especially in their early years of life, and it can be hard to make sure your child is consuming a healthy, balanced diet. Just like nutrition is an important factor in your health, it impacts the wellness of your child. Starting your child on a path of healthy eating early on will help set them up for a lifetime of nutritious eating.
At Medrano Pediatrics Clinic in La Joya and Weslaco, TX, your pediatrician, Dr. Jaime Medrano, can help you outline and implement a healthy meal plan for your child.
How many calories does my child need in a day?
The basic guidelines for calorie consumption are the younger the child, the lower the needed calorie intake. Males generally need more calories than females, and activity level should be factored into calorie count as well. In general, a toddler needs around 1,000 to 1,400 calories, while a child age 4 to 8 requires between 1,400 to 2,000 calories. Kids ages 9 to 13 may need as few as 1,400 to as many as 2,600 calories. Ask your pediatrician at our La Joya or Weslaco offices for a more specific calorie count for your child.
What should my child's diet consist of?
No matter their age or gender, a child should be consuming nutrient-rich foods at every meal, with sugary foods and beverages and salty, processed snacks kept at a minimum.
As a rule of thumb, your child's plate should include a protein source, either animal or plant-based. Options include lean meat, eggs, beans, soy products, and nuts.
Fruits and vegetables should also be part of every meal. Make sure than any canned fruits are packed with 100 percent juice rather than corn syrup, and that canned or frozen vegetables have little or no added salt. If your child resists vegetables, try serving them with a low-fat dip or roasting them for more flavor.
Grain products are a great source of carbohydrates, which are essential for your child's growing body. Carbohydrates help keep up your child's energy levels and shouldn't be eliminated from their diet. Good choices include whole-grain breads/cereals, rice, oatmeal, or pasta. If your child is gluten-free, your pediatrician can help identify alternates, such as rice, quinoa, or corn tortillas.
Dairy is a good source of calcium and protein for your child. Choose low-fat options for older children, and low sugar yogurts. If your child is lactose intolerant, or your family follows a vegan diet, try alternates like soy milk or cashew cheese.
Remember to include healthy fats in your child's diet. While many struggle with eating too much fat, it is a vital part of a balanced diet. Choose unsaturated fats whenever possible, and avoid products with trans fats. Healthy fats include nuts, avocados, and seeds.
For guidance from your pediatrician, reach out to our La Joya office by calling 956-585-6575 or our Weslaco location at 956-973-5024 for more information.