If can be unhealthy to be too thin if you are eating less food than your body needs, but being overweight isn’t good either. Kids who are under or overweight might not be getting the right nutrients to stay healthy and strong. Here are some general guidelines to think about, but if you are worried, speak with your child’s pediatrician.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children between the ages of 1 and 3 need about 45 calories per pound of body weight each day. This usually translates into the range of 1,000 – 1,400 calories per day. Since young children have relatively small stomachs, this should be split between three meals and two snacks.
Again, children this age need about 45 calories per pound of body weight, so you’re looking at 1,200 – 2,000 calories per day. Preschoolers can be picky and easily distracted, so it may take them longer to eat and it may take a bit of coaxing to get them to eat a healthy mix of foods. Keep snack portions on the small side, and boost the amount of food by about one third at the main meals to help with balance in their daily calorie count. Watch out for emotional eating. If your child is constantly asking for snacks, he may be eating out of boredom or even anxiety.
The average calories per day needed for this age range is 1,600 – 2,500 calories per day. Don’t worry too much about your child not eating enough, since children this age usually eat when hungry. Serve healthy foods at all meals and encourage fruit and vegetables at snack times. If your child plays a sport make sure you plan ahead to ensure they are getting enough carbohydrates (whole grains) and protein (lean meats or yogurt) before games or practices. Children this age are in charge of a lot of their own food choices during the day, but remind them to choose water over sugary drinks more often than not, and limiting treats to once per day.
Remember the calorie ranges are just a general guideline. Calories aren’t the only thing you need to be aware of if you want your child to be healthy – you need to also make sure they are getting a mix of food from all major food groups and getting plenty of exercise.
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