All children need healthy eating and physical activity. Healthy eating and physical activity may help children:
- Build strong bones and muscles.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce future chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.
- Feel good about themselves.
Just like adults, children need to eat a wide variety of foods. Every 5 years, the U.S. Government releases a set of guidelines on healthy eating (see Resources at the end of this booklet). The guidelines suggest balancing calories with physical activity. The guidelines also recommend improving eating habits to promote health, reduce the risk of disease, and reduce overweight and obesity.
The guidelines encourage Americans ages 2 years and older to eat a variety of healthy foods. Suggested items include the following:
- Fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, and whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, soy products, and eggs
The guidelines also suggest reducing salt (sodium), refined grains, added sugars, and solid fats (like lard, butter, and margarine). Added sugars and solid fats often occur in pizzas, sodas, sugar-sweetened drinks, desserts like cookies or cake, and fast foods. These foods are the main sources of high fat and sugar among children and teens.
Another important guideline is to make sure your children eat breakfast to spark the energy they need to focus in school. Not eating breakfast is often linked to overweight and obesity, especially in children and teens.