Content provided by: Tiffani Ghere, Clinical Pediatric Dietitian

NUTRITIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGES

The focus for children throughout elementary school is not only on calories, but also on the nutrients required for building strong bones, like calcium and vitamin D, and on adequate iron stores. Children typically grow about 2.5 inches and gain 5-6 pounds per year between the ages of 1 through 10. Caloric needs increase slightly as your child grows, but the amount of energy needed per kilogram of body weight goes down at a gradual pace. Meals or snacks should be offered about every three hours to maintain energy levels. Engage children in their own health by allowing them to be involved in the menu planning, shopping, and preparation of meals.

FAMILY MEALTIME
Make family meals a priority in your daily schedule. Don’t eat while watching television or playing video games. Don't allow cell phones at the table. Understanding what a growing child needs is important in making healthy family choices for meals, and breakfast is a meal that can help you meet nutritional goals for the day. Provide breakfast everyday, even if you are in a hurry. Children who eat breakfast perform better academically, behave better, and have a better attitude toward school. They are more likely to stay alert in the classroom and they tend to have healthier body weights. 

FOOD CHOICES
Resist the urge to be a “short-order” cook. Avoid over processed foods and items marketed to kids; they are often rich in calories but poor in nutrients. One of the greatest contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic is the absence of nutrition in the presence of over-eating – the notorious “empty calorie.” Fast foods are generally loaded with salt and sugar and are not as healthy as meals that are homemade. If you want an occasional burger, taco, or pizza slice, make it at home with real ingredients. Serve sweets only on occasion – and scratch-made is better than store-bought. Don’t use food as a bribe or reward: this ties foods to emotions instead of reinforcing the fact that food is fuel.

CHALLENGES
As children grow and gain more independence, they're required to make many decisions for themselves -- not the least of which is what to have for lunch at school, or for snack-time at a friend's house.  A good attitude towards food, early introduction to a wide variety of flavors, and familiarity with nutrition will all combine to help kids develop the habit of good eating.

SKILLS CHILDREN MAY HAVE (Age 5 - 7 yrs and up)
The ability to count to 100 or more
The knowledge to name the food groups
The capacity to distinguish between fruits and vegetables
The ability to read well
The coordination to pour liquids well

COOKING TASKS CHILDREN MAY BE ABLE TO DO (Age 5 - 7 yrs and up)
Read recipes and shopping lists
Write shopping list, menus, and place cards
Peel fruits and vegetables with a peeler
Grate cheese or zucchini
Crack eggs
Use a can opener
Help roll out pizza or pie crust
Cut with a paring knife (supervised)

NOTE: These are general guidelines. Please consult your pediatrician for specific needs.