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Nutrition Needs of Children

By Karen Myers
Copyright © 2006 All Rights Reserved

"A child's nutritional needs differ dramatically from those of a full-grown adult. Beginning at the moment of birth, the internal environment of a child’s body is in a constant state of growth and change.

Vitamins are assisting to convert food into energy. Minerals are forming strong bones and teeth. Enzymes are working to break down protein, fat and carbohydrate into amino acids, essential fatty acids and simple sugars. Friendly flora are beginning to establish a healthy intestinal environment.

These unique demands require a special profile of nutrients -- nutrients that a low-potency version of an adult multi-vitamin simply cannot deliver!"

About Nutrients, Both Vitamins and Minerals, that Children Need

How often does your child eat fresh Broccoli? ...raw spinach? ...Brussels sprouts? If they're anything like my son, these are probably the foods they avoid, and unfortunately, they're also chock full of nutrients that a young growing body needs.

According to Dr. Kenneth Ellis, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston;

  • Most girls begin their growth spurt between the ages of 10 and 11 and reach about 95 percent of their adult height between the ages of 15 and 16 ...however, her bones keep growing in thickness and strength until her mid-20s.
  • Boys experience a similar growth spurt, but it begins about two years later and lasts until age 17 or 18.

Since a child's body goes through many important growth changes, a child's nutrition needs are different, and change significantly, on their journey to being a full grown adult.

Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium have clearly defined recommendations for children. For example,

  • 1- to 3-year-old children need 500 milligrams of calcium each day,
  • while their 4- to 8-year-old siblings need 800 milligrams a day.

On the other hand, the nutritional recommendations for saturated fat and total fat are linked to a child's caloric intake, while calorie recommendations are based on a child's age, sex, height, weight, and activity level.

  • The recommended total fat intake for children ages 1 - 3 is 30 - 40% of total calories.
  • For children over the age of 3 and adults, the recommendation is no more than 25 - 35 percent of total daily calories from fat.

Children who are very active (more than 1 hour per day on most days) need more calories, while those who are relatively inactive need less.

Free Online Tools Help Meet Your Child's Nutrition Needs

When shopping for food for your children, it's become more and more important to read the labels... but understanding what the labels mean can be difficult if you don't know what to look for.

Here is a great quick table produced by the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) which may help - check out the table "How Food Label Reference Values (DV)Compare to the Nutritional Recommendations for Children".

For additional help, you might enjoy trying out the CNRC's new Interactive Healthy Eating Calculator designed to determine the calories needed for children based on their activity level and giving a breakdown of recommended servings per day of basic food groups where your child should be getting those calories for optimum nutrition.

Also available through this excellent Government resource site, a free Children's Calorie Needs Calculator with an additional link to check your child's BMI Percentile.

Great Books on the Subject of Children's Daily Nutritional Needs

It can be difficult to find great books on the subject of children's nutritional needs, but we've dug up a few and provide links to them (through Amazon) here. Please note, however... no book can replace the advice of a good pediatrician. With that said, here are a few of our favorites:


Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right
In this book, Joel Fuhrman, M.D. provides a nutrient-rich eating plan that he believes can have a significant impact on your child’s resistance to dangerous infections, and a dramatic effect on reducing the occurrence of illnesses like asthma, ear infections, and allergies. In addition to explaining the science behind the need for giving your children a solid nutritional foundation, the book includes easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly recipes that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition
Again, don't consider this book a replacement for your professional health care provider, but look on it as an excellent guide to use the foods you eat in a supportive way when facing any ailments. Although it isn't specific to children's nutrition needs, it's a wonderful resource to have on hand for all ages and stages of life and living. Loaded (perhaps too loaded?) with information, including an A-Z listing of many common disorders and what you can do about them from a nutritional point of view.

Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (3rd Edition)
Here's a gem of a book that focuses on a subject near and dear to our own hearts here at Best Liquid Vitamins. And for once, it appears the author has "no axe to grind" in the materials that he presents. When wondering which foods to mix with which for your family meals, much of the guess work will disappear on reading through this book. It also includes a great section regarding food for children!

Eat This Not That! for Kids!: Be the Leanest, Fittest Family on the Block!
From the very first chapter where you will find eight simple healthy eating rules for kids and families to follow, straight through to the final chapter where you will find fun family activities for the "exercise" component to healthy lifestyles, this book is a great addition that your kids will even enjoy reading. Both educational and a helpful guide, in todays fast paced world this will help you make the quick food choices in your busy day.

Also Great For Children

With all the many pesticides used in fruit and vegetable production these days, the less that gets inside your children through the food they eat the better. We highly recommend you use a biodegradable fruit and vegetable wash when preparing fruits and vegetables for them.

And on the subject of cleanliness, don't forget to stock up on purifying handwash. You'll want plenty on hand to reinforce handwashing in your home.

Nutritional Needs of Children - Sources and Resources

Sources and Additional Resources for Children's Nutrition:
USDA/ARS Children's Research Center - How do the Daily Values found on food labels compare to the nutritional recommendations for children?
USDA/ARS - When do kids quit growing?
FreeLife International® - Select your country from the map, then look for DinoPals®, children's chewable supplements