by Ruth Ann Clayton, RD

Were you aware that over 50% of children don’t even eat one serving of fruit a day? Vegetables don’t fare much better with only about 30% consuming one or less servings each day. It amazed me as I’m sure it will you that one third of the children in the United States eat French fries every day. Children cannot be meeting their nutritional needs with diets made up of carbohydrates, sugar and bad fats.

Many American Children have become Junk Food Eaters. Instead of diets with fruits and vegetables many children are consuming diets high in the bad hydrogenated and trans-fats from packaged, processed and fast foods. Sodas are being consumed instead of the needed 3-4 glass of water per day. With the recent startup of schools we need to remember children who receive adequate nutrition develop, learn and play better.

Young school age children need diets that supply them with their daily needs for vitamins, minerals and good fats? You want them to pay attention, learn and overall enjoy each day you send them off to school. The fact is stronger bones, healthier bodies and sharp minds are a result of good nutrition. Good childhood nutrition must be planned and children nurtured to make the best food choices.

A balance of protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, good fats and fiber are all needed as each provides different nutrients required by young bodies and minds. Offering nutrient dense foods instead of high carbohydrate, sugar and fat laden foods and beverages is a first step. Proof of poor choices is showing up in the increased incidence of allergies, obesity and diabetes in children.

A shortage of fruits and vegetables can mean a shortfall in Vitamin C needed to boost your child’s immune system. If sugary sodas and fruit drinks are consumed instead of whole fruits and vegetables protection will be lacking. Vitamin C is important in many growth aspects for children including bones, gums, neurotransmitters, and iron absorption. Vitamin A found in dark green and yellow pigment foods is needed for immune and skeletal health. Add a dark-green, red or orange vegetable at dinner to increase Vitamin A and add a fruit for dessert.

A child can be lacking in B vitamins if their carbohydrates sources are highly processed breads, pastas, crackers and desserts.   The B vitamins are needed for metabolism to fuel energy and normal growth as well as the proper functioning of the nervous system. Try switching to unsweetened whole grain cereal at breakfast served with fresh fruit or whole grain toast with no sugar added almond or peanut butter.

It has been reported American children are not getting enough Vitamin D, especially in the winter months. Vitamin D holds the key to strong bones and a healthy immune system. Sunshine is always the best source but fortified foods and Vitamin D supplementation can be added to alleviate deficiencies.

Calcium also plays a role in muscle, bone and heart health. The majority of our bone mass is acquired during the early years. Calcium can be obtained from fat-free or low-fat milk. Vegetarian sources include legumes and beans, dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli, fortified non-dairy milk and nuts and nut butters. Children’s Vitamin D supplements can also be used.

Packaged foods are tipping the fat content of children’s diets toward the wrong fats. The Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are of particular importance to brain health and development. The Omega 3 EFAs needed are DHA and EPA found in fish, free range eggs, seeds, nuts and supplementation form.

Make sure to include adequate lean protein from chicken, fish, natural beef, dairy products, soy items, eggs, legumes, nut butters and other plant sources for those growing bodies. Fiber will be supplied by whole grains and fruits and vegetables.

For busy parents every day is a challenge. Planning healthy meals and snacks for your children will put them on the right track every day to be healthy and energized. If your child does not eat a variety of healthy foods supplements can be used to insure adequate nutrient intake. If giving your child supplements of any type check the label to make sure no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives have been added.

Ruth Ann Clayton is the Registered Dietitian at Nature’s Way.  Reach her at  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. 

Ruth Ann Clayton, Registered Dietitian, is active in both the American Dietetics Association and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. Her nationally accredited Dietetic Internship and her years of experience in public health and hospital settings reflect her commitment to your health and well being.

As the co-owner of Nature’s Way, she uses her comprehensive background to research products, read labels, investigate manufacturers and provide information for her customers.