Your Growing Kid: The Early Years
Once your child reaches the age of two, his diet will basically consist of solid foods. At this age, children really begin to master the skill of eating, and they are curious about trying new foods. This is the time, when they are very impressionable, to help them start good lifelong eating habits. Undoubtedly, you will have questions and concerns about whether your child is eating nutritionally adequate amount and types of food. Though every child has unique needs as well as preferences, you can follow some general guidelines to ensure your child is getting all he needs.
Once your child reaches toddler and preschool age, her growth rate will start to slow down. Basically, she needs enough energy or calories to fuel her activity and her various growth spurts. At this age, she does not yet need adult-sized portions. In fact, feeding her large portions can overwhelm her small appetites and can be too much for her small stomach.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children age one to three get approximately forty calories for every inch of height. For example, if your toddler is thirty inches tall, he should get about 1,300 calories per day for normal growth and weight gain. Keep in mind this is only an estimate. Calorie needs will vary greatly from child to child depending on their activity level as well as their metabolism. Most kids eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They generally get what their bodies need as long as you offer them a healthy variety of foods at regular meal and snack times. Do not force your child to eat. Instead, let her appetite guide her food intake. If you worry about your child getting too little or too much food, speak to your child's pediatrician.
Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children
Your child's calorie intake should come from a daily variety of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein foods such as lean meats. Carbohydrates should make up much of their energy needs. They also need plenty of protein and moderate amounts of fat for proper growth and development as well as to meet their energy needs. Since children have limited stomach capacity, feeding them five to six small meals per day will work best. To make sure your child is eating enough use the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children (two to six years old) as a general guide for planning daily meals and snacks, as follows:
6 servings of grains including breads, cereal, rice, pasta, and crackers
3 servings of vegetables, including fresh and cooked
2 servings of fruit including fresh, cooked, canned, or 100-percent juice drinks
2 servings of protein foods including meat, fish, poultry, tofu, beans, peas, and lentils
2 servings of low-fat dairy products including milk, cheese, and yogurt
Fats and sweets should be consumed in moderation
It is fine for children to eat higher-fat foods such as chicken fingers, French fries, ice cream, and all the other foods they will mostly likely choose, on occasion. Just make sure that healthier foods are also offered and consumed along with these foods. Keep in mind that a child's appetite can be very unpredictable, changing from day to day and with sporadic growth spurts. Be patient and prepared — your child may refuse meals one day and ask for seconds the next. Again, children are great judges as to how much they need and want to eat. As long as they are growing normally, they are probably getting enough calories.