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Diet for Growing Children and Healthy Eating Tips

My kid plays and runs outside most of the day. He loves sports and I am looking for a good diet plan for him. He is 5 feet tall, weighs 119 lbs and will turn 12 in August. Can you help me out with a good nutritious menu for him?

A diet and energy requirement will vary among different children in this age depending on the level of physical activity, body size, present food intake, personal preferences and presence of any medical history. For a detained diet plan you can consult a registered dietician who will help you to plan an individualized diet plan for your child.
I have mentioned some dietary tips and lifestyle modifications for your child below that will help in his healthy growth and development.

  • Although the growth rate for boys in the age group of 9-13 is much steadier the energy and nutrient requirements are still high. In order to meet the nutritional requirements it is important to include a variety of foods in his diet.
  • Encourage him to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, sprouts and pulses. The complex carbohydrates can be gained from whole cereals, grains and its products. These foods will also provide adequate fiber and deal with minor issues like constipation or flatulence.
  • To include enough proteins in his diet include eggs, low-fat dairy products preferably milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt, fish, poultry with out the skin, lean meats and nuts in his diet.
  • Encourage him to drink plenty of water as much is lost while he is indulged in any physical activity.
  • Ensure that his diet is low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol as these ypes of fat are the main culprits for many diseases in adulthood. To prevent this restrict the consumption of hydrogenated oils, butter, margarine, fatty cookies, sweets, cakes, pastries, shell fish, meat, pork, organ meats, and egg yolk.
  • Although junk food and sweetened drinks are a favorite food of children in this age group learn to restrict the intake. You can give him healthier options at home by using whole wheat breads for pizza base, topping it with lots of vegetables and small amount of fat free cheese or fat free cottage cheese. If you make a burger, then add lots of vegetables or soya chunks in the cutlets. Shallow fry the cutlet instead of deep frying it and use whole wheat bread instead of the regular white bread. This way you can make these recipes healthy and interesting at the home level.
  • Physical activity at this age is very important, at least a minimum of 30 minutes of any form of activity like swimming, playing table tennis, cycling, jogging, skipping, running, brisk walking or other sports which interests him will help him to remain fit. In addition, restrict the time spent on electronic media like television and computers. This causes inactivity which is the major reason for obese or overweight adults.

Most growing children (above the ages of 3 or 4) are under a lot of pressure to perform well academically. At the same time, there is a lot of importance given to sports and other extracurricular activities too. Most children are urged to remain active throughout the day and in order to do so they require a high level of energy. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for parents to ensure that their growing children get their required intake of nutrients on a daily basis, which will enhance their performance in their day to day lives, at the same time enabling their minds and bodies to grow properly. Unfortunately, since most people lead a hectic lifestyle today, not all parents have the time to ensure they prepare the right food for growing children. Hence, most often than not, diet for growing children consists of pizzas, burgers, French fries, nuggets, doughnuts, pastries, puffs, chocolates, cookies, pie and so on. Health experts claim that these foods are far from good when it comes to food for growing children. This is because eating junk food even on certain occasions can increase the craving for more of it. Eating high quantities of unhealthy food leads to several health problems, like obesity, low immunity, respiratory problems as well as digestive disorders to name a few. Therefore, it is important for parents to cut down the child’s consumption of such food and increase the intake of healthy food for growing children. Since most children usually pick up their eating habits early on in life, it is a must for every parent to make sure that they include the right food for children growth, right from the beginning.

What is a healthy diet for growing children?

It is said that a growing child needs to gain approximately two inches in a year; the appropriate weight gain may vary from one child to another. Most health experts advise parents to incorporate a healthy and more importantly, a balanced diet for growing children, which will provide them with all the nutrients required by their bodies to grow and at the same time, meet the body’s daily requirements.  However, this does not mean that all foods should be eaten in the same amounts. A healthy food pyramid for growing children indicates that a couple of food types should be eaten more often than the others. Any healthy diet chart for growing children should include certain quantities of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, oil or fat, milk and other dairy products as well as beans, meat, nuts and fish. The adequate portions in a diet plan for growing children include:

• Grains: Between 4 to 6 ounces each day
• Vegetables: Between 1½ cup to 2½ cups each day
• Fruits: Between 1 cup to 1½ cups each day
• Dairy Products: Between 2 cup to 3 cups each day
• Nuts, Beans, Fish & Meat: Between 3 ounces to 5 ounces each day
• Fat and Oil: No more than 30% of a daily caloric intake
• Sweets and Sugar: Only on certain occasions

The portions for right food for growing kids may not be the same as the portions and food for growing teenagers and therefore, as the child grows, it is best for parents to speak to a nutritionist, so that the appropriate changes can be made to the child’s diet.

Muscle building foods for kids

Muscles are an integral part of the human anatomy and most grownups understand their importance, which is why it is common to see several people workout for hours in the gym, trying to build their muscles. Adults who are trying to build their muscles are usually seen following a healthy diet that is high in protein, which is like the building block, when it comes to the development of muscle tissues. However, not a lot of people realize that muscle building is more important for children, than it is for adults and therefore, they need to follow a diet which contains a high amount of muscle building foods for kids. All babies are weak and delicate when they are born, but as they grow older, their bodies and brains develop at a rapid pace. Hence, all the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles, which were very fragile in the initial stages, get stronger over a period of time. This is probably why many schools and health centers have introduced special programs where children are encouraged to participate in games and exercises that can help them build their muscles. In order to enhance their body building efforts, it is best for children to follow a diet that is high in protein, vitamins and minerals and therefore, includes the right muscle building foods for kids.

Body building foods for children

Most parents associate body building foods with adults, as children usually do not go to the gym to work out and increase their muscle mass. However, it is important for parents to realize that as children grow older, their bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles grow at a fast pace too. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for all parents to ensure that appropriate amounts of body building foods for children are included in their kid’s diet plans. In fact, following a diet that is high in body building foods for kids is probably more important than a body building diet for adults. Moreover, while grownups who want to gain muscle mass can rely on protein supplements, children cannot do so. In addition to that, children may not spend time specifically working out in a gym, in the same way that adults do; however, most normal children are very active throughout the day, if they engage in sports, games and exercises the way they should. Therefore, it is important for them to follow a healthy diet, which will enable them to strengthen their muscles and bones. All parents are advised to make sure that they include at least one source of protein in each meal they prepare for their child, in addition to any other nutrients that they include.

Some of the most highly body building foods for a child include:

• Fresh fruit and vegetables
• Whole grains, beans, sprouts and pulses
• Dairy products like milk, cottage cheese and yogurt
• Skinless chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, eggs and lean meat.

In addition to a diet, children should also get an adequate amount of physical activity each day, to help them develop their bone and muscles. Parents are also advised to consult a doctor for the appropriate body building foods for toddlers, so that the correct eating habits can be incorporated from an early stage.

Submitted on January 16, 2014