Preschoolers, grade-schoolers, and teenagers all have different nutritional needs, and so we need to shop differently for these groups. For example, calcium represents an important part of a preschooler’s diet. Kids from ages 1 through 3 need 500 milligrams daily; those from ages 4 through 8 need 800 milligrams; and those from ages 9 through 18 need 1,300 milligrams. The best easiest source is milk (try Fairway’s 100% grass-fed, organic milk), and one 8-ounce cup of it contains about 300 milligrams. Just don’t overdo it, because milk can decrease iron absorption. Additional sources of calcium include broccoli and dark, leafy greens, such as kale, as well as calcium-fortified foods, and beans, such as navy and white beans. Until around age 2, pediatricians typically advise that toddlers should drink whole milk, with older kids usually switching to low-fat or nonfat milk.
Iron is another important component of a child’s diet, and those ages 1 to 12 need 7 to 10 milligrams each day. A deficiency in iron can affect growth, learning, and behavior. So it is important to provide them with foods like fortified cereals, small amounts of red meat, and eggs (try Fairway’s farm-fresh, pesticide-free, and antibiotic-free eggs) which will have good sources of iron, which also prevents weakness and fatigue. School-age children need to eat the same foods as you, but in some instances they need more vitamins and minerals to support their growing bodies. So while providing fruits and vegetables is fantastic, don’t overlook providing proteins (like broiled, baked or roasted lean meat, such as turkey or chicken breast), whole grains (such as Food for Life Ezekiel Bread), healthy fats, and calcium, which are all vital for school-age children as well.
Teenagers will gain approximately 20 to 30% of their adult height and 50 to 60% of their adult weight during adolescence, therefore they have some increased nutritional needs, just as described above with calcium. They also need more iron, with adolescent boys and girls needing 11 and 15 milligrams per day, respectively. Athletes may need extra iron, too. And all teens, especially those involved in sports, will also have a greater need for increased protein to support muscle recovery and growth. Calorie intake should increase during this time, too, for both boys and girls, but parents should keep an eye on the types of calories they are taking in, meaning they’re coming from whole or natural sources of food, instead of from processed, junk food. Hopefully if they start when they are young, your child will have a good sense of healthy eating. Finally, the best way to make your child health-conscious is to lead by example, so if you want your child to eat an apple, snack on it, too.
What are some of the challenges you have faced with meeting your kids’ food needs?
EVENT ALERT: If you’re in the Stamford, CT, area on Saturday, Sept. 17, head to Fairway’s Stamford store at 699 Canal Street for our Back-to-School Smart Start event where there will be arts and crafts for kids from 10 a.m. to noon, and a Q&A session with Carlon Colker, MD, from 11 to noon. Product samples will be distributed, too. Note: This is the Aug. 27 event that was rescheduled.