Carbohydrates are in many of the foods your preschooler eats: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and dairy. They’re an important source of energy for growth and activity. But you may be asking, “How much should my child consume?” and “Which types are healthy?”
For children 1 to 3 years old, the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates is 130 grams. Most of your preschooler’s calories come from carbohydrates. It’s usually not necessary to count carbohydrates or calories for a healthy child. If you’re offering a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, limiting sweets and salty snacks and honoring your child’s hunger and fullness cues, his steady growth lets you know he’s getting enough calories. So instead of monitoring the total amount of carbohydrate your child is eating, monitor the types of carbohydrates he’s eating.
Which types of carbohydrates are healthy for children?
Young children need energy from carbohydrates for growth, activity and important bodily functions. The sugars, starches and fibers found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and milk are healthy carbohydrates. Whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits are important sources of fiber, a type of carbohydrate needed for healthy digestion. Foods containing carbohydrates also provide other important nutrients vitamin A from vegetables, potassium from fruit, and calcium from milk are just a few examples. Carbohydrates that are found naturally in these foods should provide most, if not all, of the carbohydrates in your child’s diet.
Added sugar is a carbohydrate that is unnecessary, but likely unavoidable in a young child’s diet. Sweetened beverages, desserts, and candy contain added sugars and calories with little nutrition for the calories. It’s alright for your child to enjoy food with added sugars for special occasions, but they should not be part of his daily diet. Use this chart to help avoid unnecessary added sugars:
|Fruit packed in syrup
- Canned fruit in juice or 100% juice (such as GERBER® GRADUATES® fruit dices)
- Ripe fresh fruit, peeled and diced to 1/4 inch or less
|Cereal with sugar listed in the ingredient statement, especially listed near the top
- Plain oatmeal with fresh fruit, or stir in GERBER® pureed fruits
- Cereals without sugar listed in the ingredient statement
|Sweetened fruit-flavored yogurt
- Plain yogurt with fresh fruit, or stir in
GERBER® pureed fruits
|Juice drinks or beverages
- 100% Juice, such as GERBER® 100% Juice
- Juice and water blends without added sugar
You can also look for these claims on packages to help avoid unnecessary added sugars: “No Added Sugars,” “Unsweetened” and “less sugar than the leading brand.”
If you offer a variety of whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and milk every day to supply your child with carbohydrates, energy and other nutrients, you’re on the right track.