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The Best Diet for Kids

From USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine

Where can parents find practical, scientifically sound nutrition advice? "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide the best science-based advice available regarding what to eat to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic, diet-related disease," said Dr. Theresa Nicklas, a CNRC researcher and Baylor College of Medicine professor of pediatrics.

Nicklas was one of 13 scientists who recently served on the Dietary Guidelines Committee. Convened by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), the committee was asked to review and recommend changes to the 2000 Dietary Guidelines. Their recommendations will form the foundation for the new 2005 Dietary Guidelines to be released early this year.

"A new committee of experts is convened every five years to review and update the guidelines to ensure they remain relevant and reflect the most up-to-date information available on the role of diet in health," Nicklas said. Reviewing the guidelines on a regular basis also ensures that they address current nutritional challenges.

More produce and whole grains
"Our recommendations specifically advise eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk products, because recent research shows that these health-promoting foods are poorly represented in the American diet," Nicklas said.

The committee also tackled the fad-diet craze, emphasizing that no matter the source — whether carbohydrate, fat or protein — calories do count when it comes to weight management. "The best way to attain and maintain a healthy weight is to stay within your energy needs by choosing foods wisely from within all food groups and to be physically active at least 30 minutes every day," Niklas said.

The committee also evaluated the latest science regarding the effect of different types of fats on health.

"We recommended that Americans limit trans fats, which increase cardiovascular disease risk, to one percent or less of total calories and that most adults consume at least two servings of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids per week," she said. Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to protect the heart, are also found in soybeans, canola, flaxseeds and walnuts.

"The guidelines continue to be the best science-based advice available for Americans over the age of 2 on what and how to eat for health," Nicklas said.

The following nine recommendations incorporate the key scientific findings of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Committee:

• Consume a variety of foods within and among the basic food groups while staying within energy needs.
• Control calorie intake to manage body weight.
• Be physically active every day.
• Increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products.
• Choose fats wisely for good health.
• Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health.
• Choose and prepare foods with little salt.
• If an adult, drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
• Keep food safe to eat.

© Child Nutrition Research Center

Located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) is a USDA/Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) research facility operated under a cooperative agreement with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. The CNRC is one of six USDA/ARS human nutrition research centers. Its mission is to define the nutrient needs of healthy children from conception through adolescence and in pregnant and nursing women. Visit them at

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