The guidelines come in a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, offering the organization's latest thinking on foods and nutrition. The statement encourages a broader dietary pattern that is focused more on what children — and adults, too — should eat, rather than what they shouldn't.
In the paper, the doctors focus on promoting a healthy overall diet, and using only a little bit of sugar, fat and salt to make healthy foods more appealing to kids. It was published online (Feb. 23) in the journal Pediatrics.
"Parents should look for every opportunity to make small, simple improvements in the nutritional value of the foods and drinks they provide children, in school and out," said Dr. Robert Murray, one of the statement's lead authors and a professor of nutrition at The Ohio State University.
To guide parents as well as the pediatricians who counsel parents about a healthy diet, the paper spells out a five-step approach to eating. According to Murray, these recommendations are:
1.Choose a mix of foods from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products and quality proteins, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds.
2.Provide a wide variety of different foods from each food group throughout the week.
3.Offer foods in their most-natural, least-processed state as the family budget will allow.
4.Use small amounts of sugar, fat and salt to increase the amount of healthy nutrient-rich foods and drinks that kids will eat. Good examples include flavored milks or sweetened whole-grain breakfast cereals.
5.Serve appropriate-sized portions for a child's age.