Nutrition to Know

Have you ever wondered why we eat? Or what we eat? We eat to keep nourished, to stay alive. Just like a car needs gasoline, people need fuel, and food is the fuel that keeps us moving. Without it, we could not survive.

Nutrients

Every food we eat has substances in it called nutrients. When we talk about nutrition, we are talking about these nutrients, all the substances that are in our food. There are more than fifty different nutrients — some you have probably heard of, like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and even water. All these nutrients work together in our bodies to help us grow, give us energy, and help us stay healthy.

The Food Pyramid

To help people understand the importance of eating foods for good nutrition without having to study all the nutrients, the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, has developed a food pyramid. Called MyPyramid, it shows how much of each type of food people should eat each day. Your individual MyPyramid changes as you get older because you need different amounts and types of food as you grow.

When you look at MyPyramid for Kids, you will notice all the colors of the rainbow moving up and down the pyramid. Each of these colors represents a specific food group, starting with the grain group on the far left all the way across to the meat and beans group on the far right. In addition to sharing information about all the foods you need to eat, MyPyramid also encourages physical fitness. Learning about the importance of eating right and exercising will help you lead a healthy life.

Here are a few tips to help you understand the food groups and keep you moving down the right path toward good nutrition and exercise.

  • Grains — Make half of your grains whole; look for 100% whole-grain products like breads, cereals, pastas, rice, and more. You need 4–6 servings of grains each day, or 1–2 at each meal.

  • Vegetables — Look for colors when choosing vegetables: green ones like broccoli and spinach, red ones like red bell peppers, and orange ones like carrots and sweet potatoes. The brighter and more colorful the vegetable is, the more nutrients it has! You should eat about 2½ cups of vegetables every day.

  • Fruits — Fruits are nature's candy. Choose a variety that you enjoy, like grapes, watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, and more. Eating whole fruits is a better choice than drinking juice, but if you drink juice, opt for 100% juice. Aim for 1½ cups of fruit every day.

  • Milk — The milk group offers your body calcium, the nutrient that helps build strong bones and teeth. Dairy foods like cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and cheese are found in this part of the pyramid. Kids should drink or eat 2–3 cups each day.

  • Meat and Beans — Here we get the protein we need to build our muscles and keep us strong. Beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts are all rich sources of protein. You need about 5 ounces of protein (2 servings) each day.

  • Sweets and Fats — It's okay to love these foods, just keep them to a minimum. They usually don't offer much nutrition. Be smart with your choices.;1–2 extras a day is fine, but make sure you get lots of good foods first before reaching for the sweets.

As far as exercise goes, try to get 60 minutes of exercise, activity, sports, or play each day. Dancing, walking, biking, skating — it all counts!

FIGURE 1.3: MyPyramid for Kids

The revised USDA Food Pyramid for Kids specifies what you should eat to stay healthy.

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