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Keep your kids healthy with the Food Guide Pyramid!

Children are naturally energetic – they run, play, are active all the time and seem to have an endless supply of energy! However, to maintain these high levels of activity, while ensuring a healthy growth, they need the right nutrition. And the best way to provide them with that is by following the guidelines of the Food Guide Pyramid.

A reliable resource for experts around the world, the Food Guide Pyramid (www.mypyramid.com) comprises 5 essential food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Meat and Beans, Milk and Dairy products and a small group that contains Oils.

As you will notice, each food group has a different colour and specific area within the pyramid. The bigger the area (like the grains and milk groups), the more servings your child can have.

Detailed below are the various food groups, the recommended amounts, and its benefits:

- Grains: Characterised by its orange colour, it comprises the largest area in the Pyramid. 3-6 servings daily are enough to provide your child with energy, vitamins and minerals. 1 serving is equivalent to 1 slice of bread, or half cup of cooked rice or pasta. The Pyramid recommends including at least half of the grains servings as whole grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice or pasta, burghul or oats as they are rich in iron, B vitamins and fibre.

- Vegetables: Coloured green, fresh or cooked vegetables provide your child with dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. That’s why it is important to serve vegetables with every meal for a total of 1½ -2 ½ cups per day.  It would be even better if you include a variety of colours, from green spinach to red tomatoes and orange carrots.

- Fruits: Highlighted in red on the pyramid, this group is rich in vitamins and minerals. Give your child 1-1 ½ cups of sliced fresh, canned or dried fruits daily and don’t rely solely on juices. If you want to include juice, choose fresh juice in moderate amounts, primarily because this doesn’t contain the healthy fibre found in whole fruit.

- Milk: Essential for strengthening bones and teeth, this group is coloured blue and has many benefits due to its importance in their overall health and growth. That’s why it’s essential to offer it to your child several times during the day. Kids need between 2-3 cups daily (or its equivalent of dairy products: 1 cup yogurt, 1-2 slices of cheese or 2-3 tablespoons of labneh).

- Meat and beans: Purple in the pyramid, this group is rich in protein, which is important for growth and body tissue formation. Include 3-5 servings daily of lean meat (1 serving is equivalent to 30g of cooked meat = size of a matchbox) and remember to vary meat alternatives such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, chickpeas and lentils.

The Food Guide Pyramid also contains an additional group, which covers the smallest area in the Pyramid: Healthy Oils. This group of foods is essential, especially vegetable oils such as olive and canola (instead of butter and ghee), when used in moderation. Nuts are also a healthy source of essential fatty acids.

Note: Try to avoid making sweets and desserts a reward for your child, as this will make these treats their sole target. Offer moderate amounts from time to time.

Last but not the least; Physical Activity is an important pillar in the Food Guide Pyramid. For a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to encourage your child to be active by making play and exercise part of the daily activities.

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