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Healthy Food For Kids: What To Serve For Meals And Snacks
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  • Parents only want the best for their children, especially when it comes to health and nutrition. You can do it by serving healthy food for kids in accordance to the guidelines set for having a balanced diet.

    Balanced diet, according to the experts from Children for Health, is eating the right amount of the right food. This can be found in the Go, Grow, and Glow foods. They recommend giving kids not less than three meals and three snacks daily to have the energy they need the whole day.

    What are the 3 G's healthy food?

    Experts advise parents to remember the three food types, also known as the 3 G's, in preparing and serving food for children. That way, you can be sure of giving them a balanced diet and them getting proper nutrition.

    Go foods

    Go foods are loaded with carbohydrates, which give energy for the body the move and think. Examples includes rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, margarine, and butter.

    Grow foods

    Grow foods are rich in protein, whose job is to make and repair muscles. These food help kids to grow taller, bigger, stronger, and healthier. Examples include pork, beef, fish, eggs, milk, chicken, beans, seeds, and nuts.

    Glow foods

    Glow foods are packed with vitamins and minerals that strengthen the body against diseases. These are found in almost all types of food, but most especially in fruits and vegetables. They also play a big role in making the hair, skin, and nails healthy.

    Healthy food for kids

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    To ensure that children have a balanced diet and they get proper nutrition, experts suggest for parents to provide nourishment from at least five of the seven food groups every day. The seven food groups are:

    • Meat (beef, pork, chicken, fish)
    • Beans, nuts, and soybeans
    • Grains (rice, bread)
    • Root crops (potato, sweet potato)
    • Eggs and other poultry products
    • Milk and other dairy products
    • Fruits and vegetables

    Speaking of fruits and vegetables, experts explain that each color represents particular nutrients, such as:

    • Red--keeps the heart healthy and strong
    • Orange--protects the eyes
    • Yellow--helps fight infection and diseases
    • Green--strengthens the bones, muscles, and blood cells
    • Purple--acts against heart diseases and cancer

    Aside from what to give, experts point out that parents should also know what not to give their children. These no-nos include junk food and soda for snacks. Choose instead the healthier options, like oatmeal, peanut butter sandwich, and boiled sweets potatoes.

    Ways to ensure giving healthy food for kids

    A lot of parents may have experienced resistance from their children when it comes to healthy food. That's why experts have recommendations if your have picky eaters in the house.

    For starters, try giving your children a food challenge. Each time they succeed in eating a new dish you serve them, they get a star as reward. Getting more stars might do the trick in enticing them to eat healthier foodstuff.

    Another way is to include your children in making the household menu for the week. You can use visual aids, like photos of ingredients that you will use in preparing meals, and make them choose the ones they would like in kids breakfasts and other meals.

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    But if none of the tricks work, maybe you can consult a pediatrician o nutrition counselor to know if there's a deeper reason other than having no appetite or interest in food. (Read here for more tips.)

    Recommended healthy food for kids

    The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has developed what it calls "Pinggang Pinoy." It is a collection of food guidelines and recommendations for every age group. If you have children belonging to the 3 to 12 years old age group, here's what you need to know about their diet:

    • The serving of vegetables should be as much as the meal’s serving of carbohydrates (or Go foods, like rice).
    • Veggies and rice (or other carbohydrates) combined will take up a little more than half of your child's plate.
    • The serving of fruit should be as much as the serving of protein (or Grow foods, like chicken).

    Food portion for kids ages 3 to 5

    Based on a 1,300-calorie diet, children belonging to this age group should have:

    Carbohydrates (Go foods)
    • 1/2 cup of rice
    • Equivalent: 2 small pandesal; 2 slices of small loaf bread; 1/2 cup of cooked noddles; 1/2 medium piece of root crop

    Protein (Grow foods)

    • 1/2 serving, about 15 grams, of lean meat (like chicken, pork or beef)
    • Equivalent: 1/2 slice of a large fish (like bangus); 1/2 piece of small size, medium variety fish (like galunggong); 1/2 piece of small chicken egg; 1/2 piece of tokwa
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    Vegetables

    • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables

    Fruit

    • 1/2 to 1 medium-sized fruit (like a banana)
    • Equivalent: 1/2 to 1 slice of big fruit (like pineapple or papaya)

    Liquids

    • 5 or more glasses of water a day
    • 1 glass of milk daily

    Food portion for kids ages 6 to 9

    Based on a 1,500-calorie diet, children belonging to this age group should have:

    Carbohydrates (Go foods)

    • 1 cup cooked rice
    • Equivalent: 4 small pandesal; 4 slices of small loaf bread; 1 cup cooked noodles; 1 medium piece of root crop

    Protein (Grow foods)

    • 1 serving, about 30 grams, of lean meat (like chicken, pork or beef)
    • Equivalent: 1 slice of large variety fish (like bangus); 1 piece of small size, medium variety fish (like galunggong); 1 piece of small chicken egg; 1 piece of tokwa, about 6 x 6 x 2 cm

    Vegetables (Glow foods)

    • 3/4 to 1 cup cooked vegetables

    Fruit (Glow foods)

    • 1 medium-sized fruit (like a banana)
    • Equivalent: 1 slice of big fruit (like pineapple or papaya)

    How snacks can be healthy food for kids

    Snacks can play an important role in managing kids' hunger and boosting nutrition, according to experts from the Nemours Kids' Health. They explain that "a well-timed snack can even out spikes in hunger and provide a much-needed energy boost between meals."

    If younger kids, for instance, get hungry, they tend to become cranky, so giving them snacks can help improve their mood. On the other hand, having snacks can help prevent older children from overeating at lunch or dinner. Snacks can also help provide the nutrients that picky eaters may not be getting from regular mealtimes.

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    Experts caution, though, that you have to know how much snacks to serve and when. Their advice is to stick to food items that are low in sugar, fat, and salt. They also suggest those that contain whole grains and protein. Moreover, don't give them snacks just before proper mealtimes.

    In an article written for SmartParenting.com.ph by Renee Rose Rodrigo, the US-certified holistic nutrition coach said, "Snack time is prime time for a good serving of fruit!"

    There are different ways of preparing healthy snacks for kids based on their age groups. But always the same rules to follow: low in sugar, fat, and salt but high in whole grains and protein.

    Food bites work for toddlers

    Cutting up food, like a banana or crackers, will be easier and safer to eat for toddlers, experts point out. Just an important reminder: don't use sweets to reward or pacify your child. Doing either and both will most likely send the wrong message that sweets are better than other foods. It will also decrease their hunger and willingness to try other foods.

    Experts also suggest you cut up some cheese into fun sizes and shapes to entice your child to eat and enjoy the nutrients, such as calcium and protein. Additionally, nutrition coach Rodrigo has these suggestions:

    • 3 - 4 tablespoons of applesauce + 4 - 6 pieces of potato chips
    • 1 - 2 cheese strings +  1 - 3 biscuits
    • 2 - 6 carrot/ celery sticks + 3 - 4 tablespoons of yogurt
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    Let preschoolers choose snack from the options you present

    Experts point out that "control is still a key issue at this age," so preschoolers will most likely enjoy the chance to choose their snack from the options you present. Just bear in mind that the desire for sweets can be quite strong at this age, so it's best to give options that are already loaded with nutrients.

    Their suggestions include:

    • Cut-up fruit or applesauce
    • Yogurt
    • Sliced or chopped veggies
    • Whole-grain crackers topped with cheese

    Talk to school-age kids to find out which snack they want

    School-age kids have homework and other activities that keep them busy and hungry. Experts suggest to find out from them what they like and discuss about nutrition, then have those snack options ready in the fridge or pantry, where they can easily grab when hunger pangs attack.

    These are healthy snacks for kids that your young pupils might enjoy:

    • Low-sugar, whole-grain breakfast cereal with low-fat milk
    • Low-fat string cheese
    • Fruit smoothies made with low-fat milk or yogurt
    • Nuts and raisins
    • Whole-wheat pita slices
    • Cut-up veggies
    • Whole-grain pretzels
    • Fruit slices dipped in low-fat flavored yogurt

    Add natural flavoring to snacks

    Nutrition coach Rodrigo observed that a lot of parents worry about unhealthy food they may be feeding their child. Her advice: "Stop worrying too much and listen to your intuition." She added, "If you’d like to make your child’s food more tastier, try adding spices instead of sugar. I like to use cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, parsley, and rosemary."

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    Preparing and feeding healthy food for kids can be exhausting and repetitive at times, but the benefits are worth all your efforts.

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