How to Plan a Balanced Diet for a Healthy Kid

How to Plan a Balanced Diet for a Healthy Kid

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Proper nutrition is vital at every stage of life, but this is especially true for children. Kids need a balanced diet to fuel their growing brains, muscles and bodies. While much of what kids need is similar to adults — a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat — the amount they need is what’s most important.

Help your kids get the nutrients their bodies are craving with this nutritional breakdown from Peggy Korody, registered dietitian and author of the Little Hands in the Kitchen cookbook.

More: How to Raise Healthy, Active Kids

The Macronutrients

In general, kids need to have all three macronutrients in their diet. These nutrients provide energy, brainpower and building blocks for growth.

Carbohydrates: Foods high in carbohydrates provide kids with the energy they need to run around all day. Carbs should make up 50 to 65 percent of a child’s food intake, Korody says.

Protein: Protein is needed to rebuild cells, making it especially important for children, who are continuously building cells as they grow. Protein should make up around 20 percent of a child’s diet.

Fat: “From birth to around 2 years of age, our body needs extra fat to build our brain. Therefore, we do not limit fat intake for that age group,” Korody says. However, kids ages 2 and older need to limit their fat intake to 30 percent of their daily food consumption, and saturated fat should account for less than 10 percent.

More: 6 Reasons to Encourage Your Child to Run

Your Kid-Friendly Shopping List

There are plenty of kid-friendly foods to choose from that will ensure your children are getting all of their vital nutrients. Here are a few basic food items for each macronutrient group:

Carbohydrates: vegetables, fruits and grains

Protein: milk and dairy products, lean meats, fish and nuts

Fat: lean cuts of meat, fish (especially cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, all of which are also high in omega-3 fatty acids), dairy and oils used in cooking

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