Kids between 6 and 12 years old typically need between 1,600 and 2,200 calories a day to keep their bodies and minds healthy and sharp. To keep them on an even keel, choose a wide variety of foods high in nutrients, low in sugar and packed with calcium and iron.
Calcium helps kids' bones grow strong and resist breaks from falls and physical activities. Milk and dairy products are the most well-known sources of calcium, but it’s also found in leafy, dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens and foods fortified by calcium -- like orange juice. Many kids aren’t fond of a big bowl of greens, but you can use the big leaves to make wraps filled with cheese and shredded carrots or blend them into dips for pita chips, whole grain crackers, cherry tomatoes, sugar peas, celery, bell peppers and cucumbers cut into matchsticks. Instead of relying on milk for calcium, make a dipping sauce for fruit with low-fat yogurt or sour cream lightly sweetened with honey or brown sugar.
While calcium builds sturdy bones, iron gives kids boundless energy and deters fatigue so they can run and play for longer periods. Since they lose iron when they perspire, it’s vital to keep them fueled with iron-rich, high-energy food. Have plenty of iron-packed snacks on hand -- such as granola made with whole grain cereal, nuts and dried fruits like dates, raisins, apricots and prunes. Meat, poultry and fish are good iron sources -- whole grain crackers topped with thinly sliced roast beef and cheese, chicken salad or tuna salad are easy-to-make energy boosters for kids.
Keep kids energized with a wide variety of foods to expand their tastes and get them involved in creating their own healthy meals and snacks. Besides dips and crackers, they can construct kabobs on toothpicks with fruit and vegetables or make individual “pizzas” from corn tortillas, salsa and low-fat shredded mozzarella. For cool, dessert-like treats, fill ice cream cones with low-fat frozen yogurt and top them with chopped nuts and berries. Instead of a traditional milkshake, blend ice, fruit, yogurt and juice to make refreshing smoothies.
Feeding kids healthy, energizing foods allows them to play hard, think clearly and sleep soundly at the end of their busy days. Parents benefit from knowing they are giving their children the nutrients they need to grow into happy, fit adults.
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