Want your grandkids to grow up strong and healthy? Of course you do! These 3 super-nutrients will give them a super advantage. As we know, good nutrition isn’t “kids stuff.” Including foods with these 3 nutrients in your grandchildren’s diet will help them fight off common colds and other maladies and grow up robust and vigorous.
Calcium is the key building block to growing strong, healthy bones and teeth. But most kids don’t get enough calcium every day. Many children now drink more soda than milk, which is one of the best sources of calcium. At every age, from infancy through adolescence, calcium is one nutrient that kids simply can’t afford to skip. Children need high-calcium foods during the growing years while their bodies are very efficient at absorbing all that they take in. This is a process that’s all but complete by the end of the teen years. For the best possible bone health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends:
|Age||Milligrams of Calcium Daily||Servings per Day|
|1 to 3 years old:||700 milligrams||2|
|4 to 8 years old||1,000 milligrams||3 1/2|
|9 to 18 years old||1,300 milligrams||4|
1 Serving = 8 oz milk, 8 oz yogurt, 1.5 oz natural cheese, 2 oz processed cheese
You can meet these requirements by offering the grandkids calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt and cheese. Orange juice and cereals are now “fortified” with calcium by many companies.
Don’t forget to encourage your grandchildren to be physically active and have fun with sports. Weight-bearing exercises such as jumping rope, running and walking can help develop and maintain strong bones. Most of all, act as a role model for your grandchildren. You could probably use the calcium, too!
Ever wonder why so many cereals and infant formulas are fortified with iron? Iron is a nutrient that’s needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells (RBCs). Red blood cells circulate throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all its cells. Without enough iron, the body can’t make enough RBCs and tissues and organs won’t get the oxygen they need for growth. Children’s diets are often low in iron so it’s important for children and teens to get enough from their food. The IOM recommends: ➮ 7 to 12 months:
7 to 12 months old: 11 milligrams of iron daily
➮1 to 3 years old: 7 milligrams
➮ 4 to 8 years old: 10 milligrams
➮ 9 to 13 years old: 8 milligrams
➮ 14 to 18 years old: 11 milligrams
Raise the iron in your grandkids’ diet with lean meats, eggs, fish, dark leafy greens, beans, dried fruits and iron-fortified grains. The iron in vegetables is not absorbed as well as that from animal sources. A drink high in vitamin C, like OJ or other citrus fruits as part of that meal will help in iron’s absorption. Also, don’t give the grandchildren tea with a meal that has iron-rich vegetables in it. The tannins in tea will block the absorption of the iron in that meal.
Use the Nutrition Facts label on all food packages for the percentage of iron that one serving of that food provides.
Kids need fiber, too. Grandma called it “roughage” and all of us need plenty of it each day. Fiber in food may play a role in reducing the chances of heart disease and cancer later in life and it helps promote bowel regularity. Whole-grain foods in the form of breads, cereals, rice and pasta along with plenty of fruits and vegetables will go a long way toward ensuring that your grandchild consumes enough fiber.
An easy way to know how many grams of fiber a child older than two years should be consuming each day is to add 5 to the child’s age in years. For example, a 9-year-old would need approximately 14 grams per day. After the age of 15, teens should consume about 20 to 25 grams of fiber daily. All bread products, cereal, pasta, rice and canned fruit and vegetables show the number of grams of fiber in a serving of that food. This makes it easy to be sure your grandchild is receiving enough fiber daily.
You can boost fiber intake by serving fresh salad with meals, adding oat or wheat bran to any baked goods you make and offering peas or beans at least once a week.
Links for more ideas:
National Institutes of Health – Milk Matters
USDA – How Much Iron Do Children Need?
Kids Health – Fiber and Your Child
Janice Wade-Miller serves as a nutrition consultant and educator for The Children’s Campaign. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food and nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.