Introduction to nutrition for children in school
Maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise is important for all individuals, especially school-aged children (6-12 years). These children are required to eat a variety of foods from each food group to ensure optimal intake of all vitamins and minerals. At the same time, they may face new challenges regarding food choices and habits.
Poor nutrition compromises both the quality of life of school-aged children but also their potential to benefit from education. Attaining optimal nutrition involves eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, as well as limiting the intake of high sugar and high fat foods.

Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Pyramid, developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an excellent tool to help you make healthy food choices for your children. The food pyramid can help you choose from a variety of foods so you get the nutrients your children need, and the suggested serving sizes can help you control the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar or sodium in their diet.

Bread, Grain, Cereal and Pasta Form the Base
At the base of the food pyramid, you will see the group that contains breads, grains, cereals and pastas. These foods provide complex carbohydrates, which are an important source of energy, especially for a low-fat meal plan.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients. Many are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate or potassium. They are low in fat and sodium and high in fiber.
Beans, Eggs, Lean Meat and Fish
Meat, poultry and fish supply protein, iron and zinc. Non-meat foods such as dried peas and beans also provide many of these nutrients.
Dairy Products
Products made with milk provide protein and vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.
Fats and Sweets
A food pyramid's tip is the smallest part, so the fats and sweets in the top of the Food Pyramid should comprise the smallest percentage of your daily diet. The foods at the top of the food pyramid should be eaten sparingly because they provide calories but not much in the way of nutrition. These foods include salad dressings, oils, cream, butter, margarine, sugars, soft drinks, candies and sweet desserts.

How Many Servings Are Right For Your children?

The National Academy of Sciences recommends the following calorie categories:
       2,200 calories - Children and teenage girls,
       2,800 calories - Teenage boys

2,200 cal
2,800 cal
Grain Group servings
Vegetable Group Servings
Fruit Group servings
Milk Group Servings
Meat Group

One serving of Grain Group can be:
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked cereal or pasta
  • 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1 flat tortilla

One serving of vegetables can be:
  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
 One serving of fruit can be:
  • One medium apple, orange or banana
  • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Beans, Eggs, Lean Meat and Fish serving
The Food Pyramid suggests 2 to 3 servings of cooked meat, fish or poultry. Each serving should be between 2 and 3 ounces. The following foods count as one ounce of meat:
  • One egg
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cooked dry beans
  • 1/3 cup of nuts

Choose lean meat, fish and dry beans and peas often because these are the lowest in fat.

Remember the Dairy!

Serving of Milk, Yogurt and Cheese
  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1 1/2 ounce of natural cheese
  • 1 ounce of process cheese (remember that processed cheese usually contains a lot of sodium)

Teach your children about healthy foods. Here are some tips to help:
  • Read over the different foof pyramids and ask your kids to pick out some favorite foods from each food group.
  • Have them help you plan a meal that includes a healthy serving of protein, a vegetable or two, and a healthy fruit for dessert.
  • For young kids, make a chart to keep track of all the fruits and vegetables they eat (we need at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day).
  • Snack time can be more fun if you try different recioes and snack ideas together with your kids.
Teaching your children to how to have a healthy diet will have a bigger impact if you set the example. Eat right, get some exercise, and make a healthy lifestyle a family affair.