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Maintaining a Proper Diet for your Child

A growing problem in today’s society is lack of proper diet for our children.  Without doubt, we live such busy lives today that finding time to sit down to a healthy meal can be challenging, but not impossible.  Changing your child’s diet will benefit him or her as a child but also into adult years.  Learning to eat the right foods, but also the right amount will reduce risk of obesity, which leads to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart conditions, and even some cancers.

Sadly, child obesity is around 20% today, a huge increase from 5% in 1964.  In addition to eating too much food and the wrong types of food, we see children spending far too much time in front of the computer or television.  Twenty years ago, children were outside much more, riding bikes, playing basketball, spending time at the playground, building forts, and other sedentary activities.  Sadly, inactivity is a serious and growing concern for children today.

In addition to getting your child involved with some type of physical activity or sport, you can also change your child’s diet.  Simply incorporating healthier food choices and cutting back on the quantity are great starts to giving your child a much healthier and happier life.  The key to this success is increased parental involvement.  Sure, this is difficult in times.  Between busy jobs, going to school, and running children back and forth to various functions and parties, finding time to sit down to a good meal takes planning and determination.  However, getting your child on the right track to health is something that every family can accomplish.

As stated, good planning is one of the most important elements when it comes to your child’s diet.  For instance, it is far easier and more convenient to purchase fast foods, which are loaded with fats and carbohydrates.  Additionally, these types of meals are typically huge, meaning your child is eating more than the body needs.  As a result, the extra food consumed is stored in the body as fat and if not burned off with some type of physical activity, increased weight becomes a serious issue.

You can start by teaching your child the right way to eat.  This involves sitting down to a light but healthy breakfast, providing fruits and vegetables to lunchtime meals, and preparing family dinners consisting of the main food groups.  Getting involved with your child’s diet will help control the amount of food consumed.  In addition, you can show your child how foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes will make him or her feel full but without unwanted calories.  Good food choices will fill the stomach and increase levels of energy and concentration while unhealthy food choices make a person feel hungry within an hour after eating, also producing a sense of fatigue.

With meals supersized, knowing the right amount of food to feed your child is hard to determine.  Of course, you would need to take a number of factors into consideration such as the child during growing spurts.  However, a great rule of thumb is that up to the age of five, your child only needs approximately one tablespoon of each food per year.  In other words, if you were serving a meal consisting of meat, potatoes, vegetables, and bread, and your child were four years of age, you should only expect him or her to eat four tablespoons of meat, four of potatoes, four of vegetables, and four bites of bread.  While this rule will vary somewhat, a child going way beyond this guideline is likely eating too much.

Take breakfast as a great example.  For a child between the ages of one and three, the following would be considered normal and healthy.

• 1/2 cup of milk
• 1/4 cup of fresh fruit or fruit juice
• 1/4 cup of cereal
• 1/4 slice of bread

However, for a child between the ages of four and six, the quantity would change to the following:
• 3/4 cup of milk
• 1/2 cup of fresh fruit or fruit juice
• 1/3 cup of cereal
• 1/2 slice of bread

Keep in mind that if you find your child is constantly hungry or does not get full on what is considered a healthy amount of food, you should talk to your doctor.  Sometimes, certain health issues can cause problems that would make your child hungrier than usual.  However, once any type of health issue has been ruled out, you will need to start slowly cutting back on the amount of food, teaching your child to eat the right amount and right type of foods.

Of course, if your child has been eating too much food or all the wrong types of food, you cannot expect to one day, change everything, which would be disastrous.  You would end up with a very, upset child, one refusing to eat the good foods placed on the table.  Making change to your child’s diet is a process.  Typically, you could begin the change and within one month, have the food types and quantity adjusted where they should be.
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