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Just read the label...or notNutritional numbers can be tricky: The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of important vitamins and minerals is always easy to find but isn’t always easy to comprehend. When the back of a granola-bar wrapper states that the snack has 15% of daily iron needs, whose needs is it actually talking about?

“It’s very confusing because there are so many different recommendations, but a child’s needs are sometimes different from an adult’s,” say Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss, registered dietitians and authors of The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers. When reading food labels for your kids, be on the lookout for these three key nutrients:

Calcium

A toddler’s calcium needs are roughly half that of an adult’s, while four- to eight-year-olds require about three-quarters as much. However, Newell Bissex and Weiss point out, around age nine, calcium needs jump dramatically. “Age nine to eighteen is a prime time, when bones are begging for calcium to reach peak bone mass,” they say. Kids at this stage actually need about a third more calcium than adults.

Iron

Younger kids need only about half as much iron as adults, but come adolescence, the numbers change. The adult RDA for iron is 18mg, which actually applies specifically to women, whose needs are higher than men’s because of menstruation. While teen girls require the full RDA of iron, teen boys need just a little more than half that.

Fiber

“Kids end up going to the nurse for a stomachache or a headache because they’re constipated, which is really a problem,” say Newell Bissex and Weiss. The solution? More fiber. As a guideline, kids ages two and three need about half the amount of fiber adults do, while older children require about three-quarters of the RDA. The requirements for kids 13 and up are the same as for adults.

Clif Kids includes RDAs for kids right on its product packaging: You can find a handy chart with more info on the nutrients kids need at clifbar.com/clifkidrda.

Reprinted from KIWI Magazine

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