Children need exercise and excellent nutrition for physical and mental development. Fortunately, your concern and care for your child will help you ensure he has adequate time to play, exercise and eat healthy foods. Whether your child is toddler, preschooler or school-aged, it is never too late to help him learn to love being physically active and enjoy a nutritious diet.
Exercise, in the form of running on the playground, playing in your backyard or participating in organized sports can help you child avoid putting on excess weight due to a sedentary lifestyle. Likewise, proper nutrition also benefits your child's weight as healthy foods fill your child up, help him avoid fast foods and give him the nutrients he needs for healthy skin, bone, teeth and brain development. An overweight child risks developing type 2 diabetes as a child, heart disease as he ages and even a shorter life expectancy, according to the American Heart Association.
More than 30 percent of 2- to 19-year-old children are overweight or obese, and slightly fewer than 10 percent of babies and toddlers weighed in the top 5 percent of the infant and toddler growth charts, according to a January 2010 study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association." In the last 10 years, the obesity weight among children has remained relatively steady, except with boys, whose numbers have risen slightly. Both excess food intake and lack of physical activity throughout the day most likely contributes to the large number of overweight, and obese adolescents and children.
Good nutrition for your child is similar to an adult's, as her body needs the same nutrients as you do, just in slightly different quantities. Toddlers up to age 4 need up to 1,400 calories a day. Boys and girls aged 4 to 8 years old need up to 1,800 and 2,000 calories, respectively and girls between 9 and 13 need between 1,400 and 2,200 calories a day, dependent on activity level. Boys who are 9 to 13 require 1,600 to 2,600 calories a day. In the teenage years, girls can eat up to 2,400 calories and boys up to 3,200 calories, if they are very active. In all calorie levels, children older than 3 need 45 percent to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates, up to 30 percent protein and about 30 percent of calories from fat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for children recommend at least one hour of exercise or sustained movement each day. Fortunately, the natural inclination of many children is to enjoy physical activity, making increasing his physical activity minutes relatively simply. To meet the guidelines, sign him up for after-school sports, take him to the playground or park to run around after lunch, join a parent-child exercise class or try new physical activities as a family such as hiking, cross-country skiing or biking.