FEEDING CHILDREN USING THE
FOOD PYRAMID AND FOOD LABELS
Healthful eating patterns and active lifestyles begun in childhood
Healthful eating patterns and active lifestyles begun in childhood and
continued through adult years may help prevent or postpone the onset of chronic
diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Parents can help
children establish healthful eating habits by offering a variety of foods and
creating balance in their own healthful eating patterns.
Meal planning and food
shopping are opportunities to share positive ideas with children. The Nutrition
Facts panel and ingredient list on food packages and the Food Guide Pyramid are
practical tools parents and children can use together to build healthful eating
The Food Guide Pyramid
Parents and children should remember that no individual food is
good or bad. All foods can fit into a healthy eating style. Help children learn
how foods fit into the Food Guide Pyramid and how each food group can help them
grow. Even young children can identify foods from the Food Guide Pyramid's five
food groups and understand how their bodies use the nutrients provided by the
foods they eat.
The foundation of a healthful eating pattern includes 6 to 11 servings of
grains at the base of the Pyramid each day: bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.
Grain products contain carbohydrates, vitamins, iron, and fiber. Children need
grains as sources of energy to grow, develop, learn, and keep physically active.
Complex carbohydrates and sugars are valuable energy sources for children.
Remember, the more vitamins and minerals in a serving of food, the more
nutrients are available for a child's growth and development.
The middle section of the Pyramid shows fruits and vegetables, which provide
carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, and folic acid to keep eyes, skin, and blood
healthy. Enjoy 2 to 4 servings daily of fruits, such as strawberries, oranges,
and peaches, and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, such as carrots, winter squash,
and broccoli. Include 2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese for protein,
calcium, and vitamin D to build strong bones and teeth. Eat two to three
servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, and eggs to provide protein and iron
for muscle formation.
The Food Label
Show children the food label and explain how to use the information to help
them build a healthful eating pattern. The Nutrition Facts information and the
ingredient list are found on most food packages.
Reading the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the nutrient content per serving
of a food. Look for information on total fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrate
and sugars, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, such as A and C, and minerals,
such as calcium and iron.
The ingredient list tells what ingredients are used to make the food and is
particularly helpful if you or your children have an allergy or sensitivity to
certain foods. Remember, the ingredient list does not provide nutrient content
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. For example, a
fortified breakfast cereal containing more than one grain, such as corn, wheat,
rice, and oats, may list sugar as the first ingredient even though the weight of
all the grains combined is more than the sugar.
Building a healthful eating pattern
As children grow, they watch for clues from parents, siblings, teachers, and
friends about making food choices. Parents and other role models can set good
examples by enjoying a variety of foods and balancing their food selections
throughout the day and week. Involving children in preparing the family shopping
list reinforces the idea of planning a varied, healthful eating pattern.
For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition and
Dietetics Consumer Nutrition Hotline
For food and nutrition information or for a referral
to a registered dietitian in your area, call 800/366-1655. For customized
answers to your food and nutrition questions by a registered dietitian, call
900/CALL-AN-RD (900/225-5267). The cost of the call will be $1.95 for the first
minute and $.95 for each additional minute.
American Dietetic Association Nutrition
Food Guide Pyramid For Kids
February 06, 2008
Children Nutrition Topics Index