Food as Fuel in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A healthy, balanced diet provides nutrients to your child's body. Nutrients are like fuel for your child's body. They give your child energy and keep your child's heart beating, his or her brain active, and his or her muscles working. They also help to build and strengthen bones, muscles, and other body tissues.

The three major nutrients that your child needs for energy are carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Carbohydrate provides energy for your child's brain, muscles, heart, and lungs. Carbohydrate is found in bread, cereal, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and sugar. Protein provides energy and is used to build and repair your child's body cells. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, cooked dry beans, cheese, tofu and other soy products, nuts and seeds, and milk and milk products. Fat provides energy, helps build the covering around nerves in your child's body, and is used to make hormones. Fat is found in butter, margarine, oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, nuts, and in most foods that come from animals, such as meat and milk products. Many foods also have fat added to them.

Your child's body needs all three major nutrients to be healthy. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help your child get the right amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. It can also keep your child at a healthy weight.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Help your child eat a balanced diet

  • For a balanced diet every day, offer your child a variety of foods, including:
    • Grains. Children ages 2 to 3 should have at least 3 ounces a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have at least 5 ounces a day. Children ages 9 to 13 should have at least 5 to 6 ounces a day. And children 14 to 18 should have at least 6 to ounces a day. An ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta. Choose whole-grain products for at least half of your child's grain servings.
    • Vegetables. Children ages 2 to 3 should have at least 1 cup a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have at least 1½ cups a day. Children ages 9 to 13 should have at least 2 to 2½ cups a day. And children 14 to 18 should have at least 2½ to 3 cups a day. Be sure to include:
      • Dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.
      • Orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
    • Fruits. Children ages 2 to 3 should have at least 1 cup a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have at least 1 to 1½ cups a day. Children ages 9 and older should have at least 1½ cups a day. A small apple or 1 banana or orange equals 1 cup.
    • Milk, yogurt, or other milk products. Children ages 2 to 3 should have at least 2 cups a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have at least 2½ cups a day. Children age 9 and older should have at least 3 cups a day.
    • Protein foods, such as chicken, fish, lean meat, beans, nuts, and seeds. Children ages 2 to 3 should have at least 2 ounces a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should have at least 4 ounces a day. Children ages 9 to 13 should have at least 5 ounces a day. And children 14 to 18 should have at least 5 to 6½ ounces a day. One egg equals 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish. A ½ cup of cooked beans equals 2 ounces of protein.

Help your child stay fueled all day

  • Start your child's day with breakfast. If your child feels too rushed to sit down with a bowl of cereal in the morning, try something that can be eaten "on the go." Try a piece of whole wheat bread with peanut butter or a container of yogurt with frozen berries mixed in.
  • To keep your child's energy up, have your child eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Skipping meals may make it more likely that your child will overeat at the next meal or choose a less healthy snack.
  • Offer your child plenty of water to drink each day.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.