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Providing Nutritious Food Choices for Your Children

The Food Guide Pyramid is a good place to start planning a nutritious diet for your family. When you plan a snack or meal, make sure that it includes protein, carbohydrate, and a little bit of fat. A carbohydrate-only meal or snack — such as noodles or an apple — satisfies quickly, but it doesn’t have the staying power that protein and fat do.

A hamburger patty or a handful of peanuts, which are mostly protein and fat, may have staying power but don’t provide immediate satiety. Yogurt and peanuts, cheese and fruit, or peanut butter and waffles are well-rounded snacks.

Serve foods that are reliable sources of fiber, such as vegetables and whole grains, often. These foods have fewer calories than fiber-free foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as pastries and ice cream.

Nutrition experts use this formula to determine kids’ fiber needs: Take the child’s age (up to 20 years old) and add 5. That’s the number of grams of fiber needed daily. So a 6-year-old needs at least 11 grams of fiber per day and an 11-year-old needs 16 grams.

Providing children with food regularly but not constantly is also important. Children need to eat about every three hours; younger tykes may need to eat even more frequently. For adolescents who can eat more at one time, four hours between meals is fine.

Children, like adults, eat out of boredom. An open kitchen policy and a ready supply of tempting edibles encourage all-day eating. Instead, schedule and serve snacks and meals at predictable times. Make snacks substantial enough to be filling but not so large that they ruin an appetite for an upcoming meal.

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