The Ins and Outs of Kid's Nutrition
Understanding and managing kid’s nutrition can seem daunting and downright impossible! Between getting them the right foods and making sure their getting the right quantities of each micro and macro nutrient it’s a lot to take in.
This blog post will give you a full breakdown on kid’s nutrition. We’ll cover how to handle meals, how to get the right amount of all their Protein, Calcium and Fiber as well as nutrition for teen athletes. We’ve included some other golden nuggets such as the benefits of eating together as a family and recipes as well!
How to create magic meals for kids
How most kids start their day is not how they should start their day! Did you know that letting your child eat cereal, milk and a glass of juice may give them more than the daily recommended allotment of sugar before they even leave the house? Kids are not to exceed 25g of added sugar a day. Many cereals meet or excel that in one teen size bowl.
What about Yogurt and fruit? This might seem like a good substitute, but unless that yogurt is plain greek yogurt, they are just getting another sugar high. Yoplait yogurts have up to 22g of sugar in one serving, almost their entire daily allotment of sugar in one tiny container!
So what should we feed our kids for breakfast? A well balanced meal of eggs or meat, a piece of fruit, and a hearty carbohydrate (multigrain bread, hashbrowns, oatmeal) and slide in vegetables or two if you can!
It might not be easier to give them the right foods, but just know it will be worth it so that their brains can function properly with a balanced diet.
All said, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make sure to limit sugar and make sure you’re including a protein, a fruit / vegetable and smart carbs! We’ll talk more about this below.
Snacks can be so tricky!! Your kids, tweens and teens may beg you for snacks. How are kids so hungry ALL THE TIME? (more on how to solve that problem later) Even if you keep mostly health and some not-so-healthy snacks in the house...you’re still giving your kids a choice to choose unhealthy snacks. And chances are, they want something that tastes good and is also quick and easy. So we know that half the battle with snacks is that they want something quick and easy.
Here are a few options of quick and easy but also healthy snacks.
Veggie tray with fun dips (see ranch recipe below)
Apples and peanut butter
Chia Seed pudding with fruit (recipe below)
Hard boiled eggs
Alternative to Ranch Dip
Want a great way to make ranch but with the added protein punch? Just add hidden valley ranch packets to non-fat greek yogurt! Your kids will love them.
Not loving the hummus you get in the store? Customize it by making it at home. Just grab a can of chickpeas (<$2 at your grocery store), a couple TBSP of water and Olive oil and whatever other seasonings you want to add in your food processor and enjoy!
Monster Cookie Protein Bites
Need a healthy kids snack that you can take on the go and give them a healthy boost of energy?
Make a batch of these Monster Cookie Protein Bites and you’ll be ready to go no matter what the day throws at you. Instead of you or your kids reaching for something not so healthy, eat 2 or 3 of these protein balls instead. It’s a healthier option and they still get their sweet fix!
These can be a lifesaver during the day when mom’s are trying to do a million and one things!
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter- prefer to be no sugar added)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini m&m's
3-4 scoops vanilla whey or paleo protein powder
Coconut milk, almond milk or milk as needed to make your mixture stick together
2Tbsp or flax or Chia Seeds
Add unsweetened coconut flakes if your kids like them
Mix all the ingredients together and roll into Tablespoon size balls. Refrigerate and eat within the week or freeze them and take them out of the freezer as needed!
Chia Seed Pudding
Mix one carton of coconut milk with 1.5 cups of chia seeds. Add in 1TBSP of vanilla for taste if you want. Mix and store overnight in the fridge. Top with fruit of your choice for added fiber!
Tip #1: Keep your kids fuller, longer.
We told you we had added nuggets. Here’s one. How to keep your kids fuller, for longer stretches of time.
We need to make a Plan For Fullness. That means including Protein, fiber and fat into each meal or snack.
What’s the secret to building this magic plate?
The Plan For Fullness is a great way to build your child/tween or teen’s plate to maximize fullness and minimize the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.
So the next time you plan a meal or snack, ask yourself if the plate has a:
Protein: eggs, lean meat, chicken
Fiber: vegetables, fruit, whole grains
Fat (the healthy kind): avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds
Want to know exactly how much of the foods your child needs- we have individual nutrition coaches to help you with that!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org inquire about individual nutrition coaching.
TIP #2: How to handle bedtime snacks.
Does your kid always seem to be hungry at bedtime? We have a solution for you!
Offering a nutrient dense food that is low in high glycemic carbohydrates is a great, healthy solution for snacks before a child hits the hay. Low glycemic carbs are slow burning carbs and will help keep the child full and not give them an energy rush before bedtime.
Some examples would be: Paleo Protein - a semi-frozen shake hits the spot with a scoop of peanut butter
Cottage cheese with a couple berries
Greek Yogurt with a little scoop of protein and P2B in it makes for a great bedtime treat as well
All of these promote muscle recovery and will not promote fat gain. This will help your child recover from the day’s activities while they sleep!
TIP #3: Eat Family Meals Together
There is some research that shows that not only do children who regularly have family meals tend to do better on achievement tests, but they also eat more nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables.
We often feel like we have NO time for family meals. Between work, driving to all the activities, appointments and social activities, the entire day is taken up. We feel forced to eat meals on the go.
We can flip the script on this myth by reframing our schedules. The average adult spends 3+ hours on his phone. The average Teen can spend upwards of 7+ hours on their phone. Swap out screen time for some family face time and reap the benefits for all involved.
Important Macronutrients and Micronutrients for Kids
Macronutrients are the main food sources we need in large quantities to sustain a healthy diet. The three main categories are Protein, fats and carbohydrates. One that we want to focus on specifically is protein. The reason we want to talk about protein specifically is because protein is very important for growing and developing bodies.
Another important macronutrient is fiber. This is not as prevalent as protein, fats and carbs, but is important as it helps keep our digestive systems in good working order.
We also want to discuss micronutrients. These are vitamins and minerals that are essential in a healthy, functioning immune system, which is important for our children’s optimal health.
What is the first food that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘protein’?
For most of us, it’s meat.
This is typical. Teens and tweens can be picky eaters and are not always in the mood for chicken or steak. The good news is that there are plenty of other ways to add protein to your child’s diet without offering those foods.
Some good alternatives are:
How much protein?
If you have an active child who is on the move, you want to support their growth by ensuring they are getting adequate protein.
If your child can eat .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, they are doing awesome!
Now this is where we have to do just a little bit of math.
If your child weighs 100lbs- that means 80-120 grams of protein per day.
How much meat is that? Well a deck of card size is around 3-4 oz of meat. 1 oz of chicken is about 7g of protein. The deck of card size of meat is 21-28g of protein.
So if your child eats a deck of card sized serving 3 times per day plus the protein that is likely in the other food they eat, they have met that requirement!
Obviously we asked this question because of the famous commercials featuring celebrities sporting milk mustaches that asked everyone everywhere, “Got Milk?” These commercials boasted that milk was a great source of calcium, which is important for strengthening the bones and teeth as well as many other important functions.
But, did you know you can get calcium from so many other great sources other than milk?
Broccoli, oranges, soy milk, almonds, white beans, and Chia seeds are all great sources of calcium.
We always like to follow up with how much your kids need (in general) anytime we talk about making sure your child gets a certain micro or macro nutrient.
The calcium requirements for kids vary by age.
Kids ages 4-8 need about 1,000 mg of calcium a day (2-3 servings)
Kids/teens ages 9-18 need about 1,300 mg of calcium a day (4 servings)
1 cup broccoli= ~40mg Calcium
1 cup soy milk= ~ 60mg Calcium
1 egg= ~25mg Calcium
⅛ cup almonds= 45mg Calcium
So while you probably don’t want to get all your child’s calcium from broccoli (that would be a lot of broccoli!) You don’t have to get it all from cow’s milk either!
Sugar is technically a form of carbohydrate, a macronutrient, and a controversial one at that.
Sugar is in fruit. And because parents always want what is best for their kids, sometimes they worry that their kids are getting too much sugar from fruit. But the truth is...
It really doesn’t matter!
Yes, fruit has sugar. And yes, too much of a good thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing, but fruit is a food in its natural state. Fruit is not the same as added sugars. It is packed, with fiber, vitamins and minerals, all of which are meant to be eaten together. The same can not be said for fruit juice. Not even 100% fruit juice.
So when it comes to fruit- feel free to let your kids have it… just work on getting in those vegetables, proteins and fats too!
Kids need fiber and so do adults… but how much?
Currently Americans are getting about 15g of fiber a day and the daily recommended intake for adults should be 25 - 30g according to the American Heart Association. This should come from food and not supplements.
Once kids hit the age of 8 the daily recommended fiber intake is at least 25g. So how can we get to at least 25g of fiber in one day?
The best food sources of fiber are vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts. If we plan to eat some of those at each meal, we should be able to get there!
If we aim for 1 cup of fruits (3-4g on average), 1 cup of Veggies (3-4g depending on the veggie) and ½ cup of nuts or seeds (almonds have 3.5g per 1oz and chia seeds have 10g of fiber per oz!) 3x per day, we’ll hit the recommended daily intake of fiber!
Why is fiber important?
Fiber helps to...
-Normalizes bowel movements
-Assists with blood sugar control
-Helps lower cholesterol
The benefits of fiber in the diet are so great and so important to a health, high-functioning child!
Teen Athlete Nutrition Topics
Having a child who is also an athlete adds a whole other aspect to their nutrition. In addition to eating to fuel their body, they need to help their body recover. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions we get from parents of our teen athletes.
What/when should I eat before training/a game?
A well balanced meal that consists of at least protein, carbohydrates and some fats. Aim to consume this meal 1-2 hours prior.
Should I have anything during training/a game?
Consider sipping a drink that consists of protein and carbohydrates throughout the game. This could be some protein powder and fruit juice.
What/when should I eat after training/a game?
A well balanced meal that consists of at least protein, carbohydrates and some fats. Aim to consume this meal 1-2 hours after.
There you have it! Over 2,000 words on Child and teen nutrition and we’ve barely scratched the surface! Remember, all members of EHP Performance have access to educated, caring nutrition and health coaches. If you have concerns regarding your child’s diet please contact us and we can help you navigate supporting your child’s healthy development!