When your child goes off to school, many choices will be his/hers.  

Choices in foods to eat or not to eat will be decided by your child. Your child will likely face new choices about what to eat during school and after school.  

And, remember that your child’s friends and schoolmates will have a great influence on food choices.

Through the school years, children have periods of rapid growth and often big appetites.  

When growth slows, appetites will decrease and less food will be eaten at meals and for snacks.  Allow your child to decide when he/she is full. Do not force a child to “clean your plate.”

Carbohydrates and fats are important for growing children. These nutrients provide energy for growing and physical activity.  This is the “fuel” their bodies need to meet their everyday energy needs.  

Foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables provide that energy, in addition to vitamins, minerals, and fiber for good health.  

It is important to choose healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and oils, and to limit saturated and trans fats.

Protein builds, maintains, and repairs body tissue.  

This is especially important for growth.  In the U.S. most children eat enough protein.  However, it is still important to encourage children to eat the recommended amounts of protein-rich foods each day.  

Milk and other dairy products, poultry, seafood, pork, beef, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds are examples of good protein sources.

Calcium from milk and dairy products and some dark green, leafy vegetables is usually sufficient in your children’s diets.  

As children approach their teen years, dietary calcium intakes don’t always keep up with the recommendations.  Calcium is particularly important in building strong bones and teeth.

Iron deficiency anemia can be a problem for some children. Iron is an oxygen-carrying component of blood. Children need iron because of rapidly expanding blood volume during growth.  

Good sources of iron include:  beef, ham, chicken, fish, beans, dark green vegetables and enriched breads and cereals.

Our bodies absorb iron better when foods high in iron are eaten with foods high in vitamin C.  Foods high in vitamin C include:  citrus fruits such as oranges and kiwi, dark green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.

Vitamins A and C, and folate come from many different fruits and vegetables.  

They are important for healthy skin, growth, and fighting infections.

The B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and other B vitamins) come from a variety of foods including grain products, meat and meat substitutes, and dairy products. The B vitamins promote healthy growth in a variety of ways.

Potassium, found in many fruits and vegetables, meat, and milk is also important for good health.

Parents should provide a variety of foods, establish regular meal and snack times, and encourage physical activity for their children.  

In most cases, nutrient and energy needs will be adequately met when you include a variety of foods from all five food groups.  

If parents are concerned about their child’s nutrient intake or their weight, they should consult with a physician or registered dietitian.

So, as your child begins school, work with the child about making healthy food choices, at school as well as at home.

Rita Hodges is the Ellis County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Contact Rita at 972-825-5175 or rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  The Texas A & M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.