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Being a parent in today’s society should qualify each parent for the highest possible academic qualification, the top military honours and a gong at every award show going because to be a successful parent means juggling a set of priorities that is more complicated than anything else I can think of. Advertising creates a demand in the minds of our little ones (how can the industry even think of suggesting otherwise), there are more pressures on our time now than ever before and of course, money has never been tighter for all of us.
All of these facts can conspire to persuade us to pick up the latest and greatest thing the food industry has to offer but at what cost? If it’s wrapped in plastic what exactly are you feeding your child and perhaps more importantly what are you NOT feeding them? There are some important facts to bear in mind when you buy processed food and when you are cooking yourself and the highlights are:
Calories are the measure of energy in food consumed and they are important for the body to function and more importantly in children for them to grow healthily. For a 2 – 4 year old plan for 1,000 – 1,400. For a 4 to 8 year old between 1,200 and 1,800 for girls and 1,400 to 2,000 for boys whilst between 9 and 13 a girl will need between 1,600 and 2,200 and a boy needs between 1,800 and 2,600.
Protein is important as it is vital in the production of new cells and converting food into energy. It is also important when it comes to fighting disease and for carrying oxygen around the blood. The amount needed is measured as a percentage of the calories consumed. In a 2 to 3 year old child, protein should provide between 5 and 20 percent of calories. Between 4 and 8 years look for a contribution of between 10 and 40 percent while 9 to 13 year olds will need between 25 and 35% of their daily calories sourced from protein.
Fat is an excellent source of energy as well as being the means for the body to absorb some of the important nutrients found in food. Surprisdingly the dependence on fat is higher in younger children. Between 2 and 3 years they requires 30 to 40 percent of calories from fat but after that age this drops to between 25 and 35 percent of calories.
Carbohydrates are a good source of energy and they help the body process fat and protein when it is repairing damaged tissue. Across all age groups the recommended intake of calories from carbohydrates should be between 45 and 65 percent of the total intake.
Fiber is widely known for its health maintaining properties but it is often forgotten that they are important for children as well. Between the ages of 2 and 3 years a daily intake of 19g is recommended and this rises to 25 g for children above this age.
If you are buying processed food it is usually easy to judge the content of that food using industry standard traffic light labels that are displayed on all processed food labels. If you are cooking yourself it is not always quite so easy but government guidelines such as five-a-day area good place to start. Other rudimentary guidelines can also help and one I have found useful is to make ensure that one meal has no item that is of the same colour as another item. SO, no potatoes and rice, no cabbage and peas, mix the colours of your meal up for maximum nutritional benefit because you are eating the so called balanced diet.