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How to make balanced and healthy diets for children using basic food groups



By Maria Prihtamala Omega
The food groups consist of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy that have been used as a basic guidance to eat balanced and healthy meals.

Firstly, vegetables have essential nutrients that are needed to grow and stay healthy. For example, dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and collard greens have calcium which the bodies need to grow strong bones. Carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, squash, and beets have vitamin A which helps to protect and heal the bodies. Beans are also part of vegetable groups. They are good source of protein which is needed to build strong muscles including the heart. Humans should eat different vegetables in order to get different nutrients. Children should get about one-and-a-half cups of vegetables a day, including a small salad at lunch and vegetables at dinner.

Secondly, fruit is also an important part of a balanced meal. For instance, fresh apples, oranges, bananas, and other fruits are loaded with vitamins that are needed for healthy eyes and skin. The fruits also have nutrients that help the bodies to fight diseases. Fresh fruits and vegetables have fiber which the digestive system uses to stay healthy.  Children should have about a cup to a cup-and-a-half of fruit a day. They could have fruits with oatmeal in the morning and some grapes for a snack in the afternoon. Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different nutrients. Therefore, it is good to eat a variety of colorful fruits. Half plate for each meal should be made up of fruits and vegetables.

Thirdly, grains are also an important food group, such as bread, rice, pasta, oats, cereal, and tortillas are all parts of the grain groups. Most grains that are consumed should be whole grain which are more nutritious. White bread, white rice and sugary cereals are made with processed grains, which have lost of a lot of their nutrients. Grains contain carbohydrates which the bodies use for energy. They also contain a lot of fiber which is good for the digestive system. Children need about five ounces of grains a day, They could have half bagel for breakfast, a sandwich with multigrain bread for lunch, and a whole wheat pasta at dinner.

Fourthly, a balanced and healthy meal also has protein. The protein food group includes meats such as chicken, beef, and fish. It also includes eggs, nuts, beans, and tofu. Beans are part of both the protein and the vegetable groups. The bodies use protein to build muscles. Children need about four ounces of protein a day. They could have a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter in the morning, a salad with chicken at lunch and a small piece of fish at dinner. It is better to get the protein from different kinds of foods.

Lastly, dairy is another part of a balanced meal. For example, milk, soy milk, cheese and yogurt are all parts of the dairy group. Dairy foods have calcium which the bodies use to grow healthy bones, teeth and hair. Milk is a great source of vitamin D too which the bodies need in order to get calcium. Children should pick plain milk that is lower in fat, such as skim or 1% milk fat (1%M.F). Chocolate and strawberry milk are not good choices because they have tons of sugar. Children need about two-and-a-half ounces a dairy a day. They can have yogurt with fruit in the morning, small cartoon of milk at lunch and a little cheese at dinner. When children eat, take a look at the plate, because half plate should have fruits and vegetables with a bit more vegetables. The other half should have grains and protein with more grains. There should be some dairy too. It is better to explore foods from all the food groups so that you eat balanced meals and stay healthy.

The next topic is about the reasons why you should eat healthy foods.  This is because food is the fuel for the body. When we eat, our digestive system breaks down food and takes in nutrients. The body needs nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Milk, yogurt, cheese are high in calcium, which is a nutrient the body needs to build strong bones. Vegetables, nuts and beans have nutrients that help to keep eyes, skin and hair healthy. Some foods are not as nutritious or healthy as others such as junk food.

Junk food is food that has few nutrients and is high in fat, sugar or salt. Foods that are high in sugar can change the mood or how you feel. After eating sugary snacks, children might feel really hyper and have too much energy. But the mood can change quickly, and they can get tired or grumpy. Eating too many foods that are high in fat and salt can cause health problems later on. Therefore, it is important to remember about how much to eat from different food groups and keep up a balanced diet (fruits, grains, vegetables, protein and dairy).


 Then, it is essential to know how to choose a healthy breakfast, lunch and drink. After children wake up, their body needs fuel to begin the day. That’s why people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Doughnuts and pastries are high in fat and sugar and some cereals have a lot of sugar too. Bacon, sausage, and hash browns are greasy and have a lot of fat. They are not healthiest way to start your day. Instead, children can eat whole wheat toast or multigrain bagels which have a lot of fiber. They also can have fruits with yogurt, which is more nutritious than doughnuts. Eating a healthy breakfast can give them enough energy and keep them full until lunch.

It is also vital to choose a healthy lunch. For instance, pizza and hamburgers are pretty greasy and they have a lot of fat and salt. The salad has fresh vegetables which are nutritious, plus chicken which is lean, so it doesn’t have a lot of fat. That’s the healthiest choice. When children eat, choose food with fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads instead of white bread. This is because whole grain breads are darker and they have more nutrients. Fruits are high in vitamins which the body uses to stay healthy. Potato chips and corn chips are fried, so they are high in salt and fat. If the chips are baked, they are lower in fat. But they are still a processed food and high in sodium. So, it is better to get unsalted mixed nuts as snacks for lunch. Nuts have protein which the body needs to build muscles.

Moreover, children should choose the healthiest drink. Juices might seem healthy but sometimes they can have a lot of added sugar and artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives. The sports drink sounds like a good choice, but it has weird stuff in the ingredients. A good rule is if you can’t pronounce it, then it is probably not the healthiest choice to eat or drink. Milk is nutritious but chocolate and strawberry milk have a ton of sugar. The healthiest choice is probably plain low fat milk or water.

In conclusion, the body needs healthy food and drink to stay healthy (see Figure 1.), so pay attention to what you eat or drink.


Figure 1. The Food Groups

References:

http://www.brainpopjr.com/the-food-groups