Complete Information on Healthy Food Choices: 2 to 5 Years

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The following suggestions for healthy food choices are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed through research by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. The number of servings and serving sizes are intended for children between 2 and 5 years old. When a range is given for a serving size, the smaller portion is generally appropriate for a 2 or 3 year old, while the larger portion is appropriate for a 4 or 5 year old.

Breads, cereals, rice, and pasta (4-5 or more servings)

Examples of servings:

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1/a – 1 slice whole-grain bread

1/2 bagel

½ – ¾ cup unsweetened breakfast cereal

¼ -1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice 2-5 whole-grain crackers

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Other good choices: cornbread, English muffins, muffins, rice cakes

Vegetables (2 or more servings)

Examples of servings:

¼-1/2 cup cooked vegetables

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1/3 – 1/2 cup raw vegetables

Good choices: asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, corn, green and red peppers, green beans, kale, peas, potato, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, tomato, vegetable juices, zucchini

Fruit (2 or more servings)

Examples of servings:

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¼ – 1 piece of fruit

¼-1/2 cup cooked fruit

½ cup juice

Good choices: apples, applesauce, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, fruit cocktail, 100% fruit juices, grapefruit, kiwifruit, nectarines, oranges, peaches, plums, strawberries, watermelon

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Dairy products (3-4 servings)

Examples of servings:

cup milk

½ – 3/4A ounce low-fat cheese

½ – 3/4A cup low-fat yogurt

Other good choices: low-fat cottage cheese, custard, ice milk Meat, fish, poultry, and legumes (2 or 3 servings) Examples of servings:

1-2 ounces lean meat, fish, poultry, or tofu

1 egg

¼ cup cooked dried beans

1-2 tbsp peanut butter

Other good choices: shellfish, dried peas, lentils, reduced- fat cold cuts

Facts on Fat

Children younger than age 2 need as much as 50% of their daily calories from fat for healthy growth and brain development. After age 2, up to 30% of calories should be derived from fat. Once your child is 2 or 3 years old, you can start reducing dietary fat by:

1. switching from whole milk to low-fat or nonfat milk

2. serving more fish and poultry and cutting back on red meat

3. removing the skin from poultry and trimming fat from meats

4. reducing butter and margarine use

5. using low-fat cooking methods such as baking, broiling, grilling, poaching, and steaming

6. serving fiber-rich foods, including whole-grain breads, cereals, dried peas and beans, fruits, and vegetables

Facts on Fiber

Fiber becomes important in your child’s diet after age 3. Dietary fiber may play a role in reducing the chances of heart disease and cancer later in life. If you follow the suggestions on fruit and vegetables servings each day, and you make sure to buy only whole-grain breads and cereals, you’ll be well on the way toward helping your child develop good eating habits hell continue through his life.

You can boost fiber by serving fresh salad with your meals, adding oat or wheat bran to any baked goods you make, and offering legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans at least once a week. If you think that your child isn’t getting much fiber, be sure to increase his fiber intake gradually, since excessive fiber can cause painful bloating and gas. Don’t forget to have kids drink plenty of water each day as well, since liquid intake can help reduce the chances of fiber-related intestinal distress. Be aware that excessive fiber intake can interfere with the body’s absorption of crucial vitamins and minerals.

Calcium Counts

Making sure your toddler or preschooler gets enough calcium should be another priority. Sufficient calcium now can mean stronger, healthier bones for your child later. Children ages 1 to 3 require 500 milligrams of calcium each day; from age 4 to age 8, the requirement is 800 milligrams each day. After age 8, the requirement jumps to 1,300 milligrams per day. You can meet these guidelines by offering your children good sources of calcium such as:

1. . Low-fat or nonfat milk

2. Low-fat or nonfat yogurt

3. Low-fat cheese

4. Tofu

5. Salmon (with bones)

6. Calcium-fortified fruit juices

7. ice cream (occasionally)

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