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Eat for Your Age

By: Meg Russell - Updated: 1 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Stages Of Life Healthy Diet Food For

As we go through life, the fuel we need to keep our bodies and minds in good shape varies greatly.

Now that more people are taking individual responsibility for their own health, it is important that they realise this is a changing picture.

They should make allowances for age, gender, weight and activity levels, which together determine what, and how much, we should eat.

Do's and Don'ts of Healthy Eating

As a rough guide we can use daily calorie recommendations to find out how much we should be consuming. But it is the type of foods those calories come from that is most important.

  • Even within the same age groups, food requirements go up and down for individuals.
  • Remember that as much as 70 percent of our daily calories is needed just to keep our bodies and organs working - breathing, pumping blood, walking, even sleeping.

What to Do and Not to Do for Baby

  • At the start of life, a baby grows more in its first two years than at any other time. Yet almost all the 1150 calories the baby needs come from breast milk, formula milk and the first solid food.
  • Do not feed salt or sugar to babies in these early years. There is a danger posed to the baby's kidneys from salt; and giving sugar will only encourage an early liking for sweet things.
  • Do remember that babies and growing children need full fat milk. While it is perfectly healthy for adults to have low calorie versions, babies under two should not be fed semi-skimmed milk, nor should under-fives be fed skimmed milk.

Do's and Don'ts for Growing Children

Gradually build up the food portions for growing children - their claims to be 'starving' half the time as they reach their teens is due to their very rapid growth.

  • Aim for an average 1630 calories for four to six-year-olds
  • Build to around 1855 calories a day for seven to ten-year-olds
  • And 11-14 year-olds will get through 2030 calories
  • At this stage healthy snacks of fruits and vegetables, or sandwiches of wholemeal, granary or oatmeal bread are great fillers when hunger strikes
  • Children need proportionately more nutrients than adults, ideally from food packed with vitamins and minerals.

Teenagers' Fast Food Tastes

Apart from a tendency to develop a taste for fast food, many young people in their mid to late teens see it as a waste of time waiting around for a healthy, balanced meal.

  • Yet healthy eating is more important than ever now - for their brain power and concentration as well as their bodies.
  • They should have healthy, well-balanced meals at home.
  • The average 15-18 year old boy needs around 2755 calories, and a girl 2110 calories.
  • Keeping a ready supply of healthy snacks for teenagers to dip into will limit their craving for fast food.
  • Quickly assembled sandwiches or pitta pockets, with cooked, cold chicken or tuna, bulked out with prepared salad or vegetables go down well.
  • Oatcakes with cottage cheese or cream cheese, along with fruit or vegetable sticks, have great slow-burning energy benefits.

Do's and Don'ts for Adults

By the time we become adults our daily calorie requirements have settled to an average 1940 for women and 2550 for men.

  • This varies according to lifestyle and people who are not active should err on the low side.
  • Ideally, good eating habits established when we are young will have stood us in good stead.
  • But too often a lack of exercise, and too many high calorie, high fat foods, have led to the kind of obesity that is common.
  • Do cut down on empty calories from biscuits and pastries, sweets and cakes.
  • Concentrate on the complex carbohydrates that should make up one third of your calories.
  • Find them in wholemeal breads, whole grains, legumes and pulses, fruits and vegetables.
  • Only a fifth of what you eat should take the form of protein - meat, or chicken, for example.
  • And keep dairy foods to no more than 700mg a day.
  • Don't forget that essential fats - the unsaturated kind found in foods like certain fish and olive oil, for example - are necessary for good health.

Exceptions for the Mum-to-Be

The daily calorie average for a pregnant woman can go up to 2,400 calories.

  • Don't, however, think that you must 'eat for two'. This is not the case.
  • The additional calories allow for extra energy foods like bread and cereals, and extra milk, yoghurt or cheese.
  • This will ensure that the mother gets enough protein and calcium.

More Change as We Grow Older

It is perfectly natural for us to lose weight as we grow older.

  • Our appetites decrease because we are less active.
  • Don't, however, make the mistake of thinking we can neglect our diet.
  • Older people need foods that are nourishing, because they are eating less, and Vitamin C, in particular, is very important.
  • Soups and casseroles, rich in vegetables, are a good source of nutrients and fibre.

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