kids nutrition

When it comes to feeding your child, it may seem like there are a dizzying number of rules to follow. Your child needs nutrients to grow strong and healthy, but you also have to limit treats and serving sizes so that your child doesn't develop weight and health problems down the line.

Obesity is becoming a common problem in the United States. Almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and more than half of them get too little physical activity.

U.S. nutrition officials are trying to help out. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created new dietary guidelines to provide more practical advice on how to give your child a healthy, balanced diet. The new guidelines suggest that kids eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains than in the past and that they get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.

The recommendations are tailored for kids based on age, gender, and exercise habits. You can find out what guidelines are appropriate for your child by logging on to the USDA's website. (See the Additional Resources tab).

With the new guidelines, the Food Guide Pyramid also got a new look and a new name: MyPyramid.

Inside the pyramid, six stripes represent the five food groups as well as the oils and fats that your child should consume each day. Stairs on the pyramid represent the importance of exercise and the simple steps you can take each day to improve your child's health.

On the pyramid, each color represents a different food group.

•   Orange: grains •   Green: vegetables •   Red: fruits •   Blue: dairy and calcium-rich foods •   Purple: proteins (meats, beans, and fish) •   Yellow: fats and oils

Keep in mind that the serving sizes are guidelines and that, on some days, your child may eat more or less of a certain food group. That's OK. Different foods have different mixes of nutrients, so it's important to offer your child a variety of foods on a regular basis. Moderation is a key part of a healthy diet.

Also, remember that the nutrition content of a food can vary depending on how you prepare it. Apples, for example, are packed with nutrients and can make for a great after-school snack. Apple pie has all those nutrients. But it has lots of fats and sugars, too, so you may want to limit how much you serve.

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