A Balanced Meal For Kids

A Balanced Meal For Kids

August 2, 2018 0 By Lead Mama

My Kid Ate It! That Means Its A Balanced Meal

This is a Balanced Meal According To My Kids, Chicken Nuggets, Ice Cream and Cheerios

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Children’s Idea Of A Balancd Meal

Kids do not care about a balanced meal at all. All they want is something that hits all the flavorful spots in their mouth… we adults call them tastebuds.  This means many times what they will chew and swallow many only be in one food group, two if you are lucky!

What exactly is a balanced meal? They include protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber. And while those chicken nuggets, ice cream, and cheerios belong in those categories…. They aren’t exactly the right kinds. Your child will argue, but chicken nuggets are protein ( OK, they are right ), ice cream is a fat, carbs, and dairy too then the Cheerios well that too is a carb and a grain too! 

Knowing the right kinds of each thing and portions for each can be hard to remember especially when you have a child who has a little to no understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.

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How to Find the Right Balance

First of all, you need to know exactly what balance you are going for. Most of what you see all over the place is for adults, so we are left clueless about how we should feed our children.

Any time you read labels on foods, they are all based on adult services and needs, unless they are specifically for kids. So that information you find for Oatmeal, that is for adults, not small children. On the other hand, those Gerber treats, that information was created specifically for children’s needs. You can learn more about the differences between these labels on the Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics site, Labels For Children Under Two

The three main nutrients to be sure you include in your son or daughter’s lunch are a healthy fat, protein, and fiber. However, you will also be adding some other nutrients as well, getting as many vitamins and minerals throughout the day as possible. Though many of these other nutrients still fit within the first three you are aiming for. It is much easier to give them a balanced meal when you use a compartment lunch box, such as a Bento box.

A Balanced Meal Will Have A Little Of Everything

Having 0.5 grams of protein per pound the child weighs, 50% – 60% or 130 grams per day of mixed carbs and 25% – 35% of healthy fats ( depending on age ) is what you should go for. This is the generally recommended amount for children. Of course, please talk to your child’s nutritionist and or dietician to make sure your individual child’s nutrition needs are met. Sorry, no your pediatrician is not the right person to do this, they do not have the training for it. It is not a required course for them, so 90% of pediatricians do not know. You can learn more about Kids Dietary Recommendations from Heart’s site, Dietary Guidelines on Health’s site and on Kids Health by Nemours.

How to figure out how much protein your child needs for the day is done by calculating it this way. An easy way to remember is that for every 2lbs, 1 gram is needed. For example, a 40lb child needs 20 grams of protein per day. Divide that by 3 balanced meals a day means each meal should have 6.66 grams of protein. For a 70lb child, that would be 35 grams of protein per day, broken up between 3 balanced meals would be roughly 11.66 grams per meal. These numbers aren’t exact, they are rough estimates and only intended to be as examples. To learn more about how crucial protein is for your child and get protein ideas please visit Nemours Kids Health site

Now that you know how much your child should get, let’s get to planning out the meals. I highly recommend planning them by the week. This reduces lots of stress, hangry family members, and take-out meals. One way to do it is by thinking of meals that actually include all the important elements.

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For example, a wrap can have your whole grains in the tortilla, fruits, and veggies inside, a protein with the meat and cheese, which also contain your healthy fats, and fiber in the tortilla or bread as well. Some things that contain all important elements of a healthy balanced meal are sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

Use Multiple Food Items For Balance

Another option is instead of trying to put a ‘meal’ together, just include different food items in the lunch box that eventually make up the proper portions and balance between the various nutrients.

This is where you really want to use a Bento box or other lunch box that includes different compartments inside. I learned about Bento meals in 2009 when my fourth son turned a year old. He has a severe sensory processing disorder. He refused foods lots of the time and I was desperate to find a way to get him to eat before he ended up with a failure to thrive diagnosis. Thankfully he was able to avoid the FTT status because I was introduced to Bento meals! It seriously saved us. 

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What you can do is use these compartments to make sure the kid’s lunches have enough balance in nutrients, while also controlling portion sizes. If there are four compartments, you can use one for your protein, one for veggies with fiber, one for fruit, and one for another snack, such as nuts and seeds, trail mix, or granola.

A good thing to do is have your kids help put lunches together, giving them options within each major food group so that they can pick and choose the elements, but are still achieving a meal balanced every day.

Don’t Use Foods As A Reward System

I see hundreds of posts in the mom groups that ask about reward ideas. It always pains me when I see others give the suggestion of offering some type of food. Even worse is when it is in the junk food department. But the biggest gripe I have with the whole idea of using food as a reward is this…. It Teaches Your Child A Negative Food Habit. They learn that eating foods for more than survival is ok. Emotionally eating is encouraged by offering foods as a reward. I encourage you to read more about this from the experts, Say Yes To Non-Food Rewards on the Eat Right site. 

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Now that you have a better idea of what a balanced meal is, and a free kids meal planner, let’s get some tasty kids meals planned! 

In the comments, what are some of your kids favorite meal combinations? 

Do you have questions, tips or something else to add about having a Balanced Meal? Use the comment section below to join the conversation. 
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