Nutrition for School-Age Children

Fatma Al Numaini
Dietition
Mediclinic Al Ain Hospital Branch 

School-age children must consume healthy foods and nutritious snacks. Many food habits such as favourites and dislikes are established at this age. In addition, eating habits may be influenced by family, friends and media that they are exposed to. Nutrition during this stage should supply adequate nutrients to support physical activity, attain a healthy weight, and ensure that the growth demands are met.

Healthy eating tips

Healthy eating habits and regular participation in physical activity should be established to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and achieve optimal physical and cognitive development. The following are some healthy tips for better nutrition:

  • It is important to encourage breakfast; it helps the child to stay active and concentrate at school, and reduces their likelihood to snack on unhealthy foods.
  • Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet for active children. Choose snacks that are nutritious and not just high in energy (fruit choice, smoothies etc.)
  • Ensure a variety of different foods each day.
  • Encourage children to drink water.
  • Let children help with food preparation and meal planning.
  • Limit screen time and aim for some physical activity every day.

Foods not recommended

High-fat foods:

Avoid foods which are high in trans fats by reading the nutrition facts label and limit the amount of fried foods in the diet as well.

Foods that cause dental cavities:

Avoid soda, gum, hard candies, lollipops and other sugary foods.

Sugar-sweetened beverages:

These drinks will fill children up and provide very few nutrients. Offer water and milk (in appropriate amounts) first and limit juices and soda.

Caffeinated beverages:

Caffeine can cause dehydration and restlessness. These beverages must not be a replacement for healthier beverage choices like smoothies.

Exercise and physical activity

Physical activity is an important part of good health. Try to encourage your child to do something active each day, such as a hobby, playing outdoor games or being involved in sports. Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days to have good health and fitness and for healthy weight during growth. In addition, to prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink water regularly during and after physical activity.