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Your Kids’ Nutritional Needs

Dear Debi,
My 5-year-old niece is constantly asking for food. I have noticed she is gaining weight. We feed her breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between, but she is always hungry. She has obesity in her family and we are worried. What can I do to prevent her from getting bigger and being hungry?
Sandra, Burbank, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Kids need 5 to 9 servings of fruits & vegetables a day.
  • One serving is equal to a child’s fist.
  • Allow children to graze all day.
  • Educate children about proper nutrition early in life.
Expert Advice
Dr. Bob Sears
Dr. Bob Sears
Pediatrician and Author of “The Baby Book”
Kids of different ages have different nutritional needs. Kids from ages 1 to 5 should be eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day throughout the day. You’ll notice that if they are given healthy foods, they will have less room for unhealthy choices.

5 to 9 servings may sound like a lot, but it’s not, because we are talking about serving sizes that are appropriate for their age. A good rule to know is that a child’s handful is equal to one serving. So for a 1 year old, one serving is not enough.

When kids start eating solids after the age of 1, it’s important for them to graze. Grazing means that food should be left out for kids throughout the day, on what I call nibbling trays. They should be nibbling on many meals throughout the day, eating up to 10 small meals a day.

Remember to make food appealing to kids, give names to the food, such as broccoli trees and orange wheels and make sure to serve them with appetizing dips and sauces like guacamole and yogurt so that they will like eating them.

Getting kids eating healthy early is key. Adults have a window of opportunity to teach kids how to eat right. Take kids to the store and teach them what foods are good for them. The goal is to teach them these techniques so that when they grow up and are exposed to junk foods, they will have a good foundation of knowledge to know when to say no.

Regarding consumption of milk, here’s a simple way to remember what to give kids at different stages. No cow milk under 1, whole milk from 1 to 2, and low fat after that. Young kids need whole milk, because they need the extra fat to grow and develop properly. As a rule, 30% of children’s diets under the age of 5 should be made up of good fat. If you put them on a nonfat or low fat diet, you may be depriving them of the proper nutrients to grow and develop.
Child Care provider Comments
Child care provider for 3 years
I am involved in a government-funded food program. They provide you with materials and guidelines on how to plan balanced and healthy meals for children. So I know how much food and what kinds of food to give each child and at what age.

I also think partnering with parents is crucial to children’s eating habits. I talk to parents so that they don’t use food for the wrong reasons, such as appeasing the child or bribing them with food.

I tell parents that the goal is to establish good eating patterns at home and in my care so that they continue these healthy habits throughout their lives.
Child care provider for 11 years
I took nutrition classes because I am overweight and obesity runs in my family. I wanted to know what was wrong with my eating habits and what I could do to improve it. I found that genetics do play a role. So I talked to my daughter about my 2-year-old granddaughter’s eating habits.

I wanted to make sure she was aware of our family’s weight history and to balance it with healthy eating with her child. Taking classes and being informed is important to find proper portions and correct choices in foods, not only for yourself, but also for your kids.
Child care provider for 25 years
I serve breakfast, a snack, a big lunch, another snack and then dinner to the kids in my care. I believe that kids should eat as much as they want as long as it’s healthy.

Brainy Breakfast Featured Activity:
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Topic: Health & Safety
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