School-aged children are still growing. Growth requirements combined with physical activity play a role in determining nutritional needs.
Carbohydrates provide energy for the growing body. Carbohydrates are found mostly in grain foods. Aim to eat more whole grains because they are less processed. This means the vitamins, minerals and fiber are not lost during processing, so it is an overall healthier choice.
Protein also provides energy. In addition, it maintains and repairs body tissue and is especially important for growth. Protein is primarily found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and dairy products.
There are a variety of vitamins and minerals which support growth and development during childhood and adolescence.
- Calcium: a mineral that is needed to develop strong bones and teeth, help muscles contract, and support future bone health. Maximizing bone-mass gain during growth is an important strategy for decreasing the risk of osteoporosis because bone loss occurs as you age. Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium.
- Iron: carries oxygen to the blood. Children need iron for expanding blood volume which is accompanied during periods of rapid growth. For girls, the beginning of menstruation in late childhood adds an extra demand for iron. Meats, fish, poultry, and enriched breads and cereals are the best sources of dietary iron.
- Vitamin D: helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is naturally present in fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. The majority of Vitamin D in the US diet, however, comes from fortified milk, fortified cereals, and fortified orange juice. Adequate skin exposure to sunlight can also provide Vitamin D.
- Vitamin A: important for normal growth, healthy skin and tissues, and bone development. It is also important for good vision. Since our bodies store Vitamin A, including a good source of this vitamin, such as cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, and fortified cereal every other day will ensure an adequate intake.
- Vitamin C: helps form bones, teeth, and healthy skin. It also helps maintain a healthy immune system and keep blood vessels strong. Since our bodies do not make Vitamin C, we need to eat foods, such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes, every day.
Please refer to the links to the right for additional information and resources on the nutrient needs of school-aged children.