Benefits of Nutrition
Just as with physical activity, growing research supports the important relationship between the body and mind in terms of mental health. The nutrients we consume play a role in the make-up of our brains and our mental health. There is strong evidence that poor diet choices contribute directly to mental illness. Therefore, providing and modeling healthy eating for our children is vital to their mental health.
Mental Health Effects of Nutrition
In adult populations, recent research has shown that high sugar consumption from sweet drinks/foods is related to higher incidence of depression and other common mood disorders. Meanwhile, the consumption of probiotics is related to a reduction in depressive symptoms.
The effects of diet on mental health has been corroborated in children and adolescents with an association between low dietary quality and low mood, depression, and anxiety. One study found a bi-directional relationship in children following healthy dietary guidelines and high self-esteem, and that following healthy dietary guidelines led to less emotional problems and peer problems at follow-up.
General Nutrition Guidelines
Recommendations from the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services for children above the age of two are the same as recommendations for adults.
Use the below tool to find the recommended daily calories your child or teen should consume. Click on the "Recommended Calories" button to view a list of suggested amounts and types of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein.
For Families with Food Challenges
Healthy meals do not have to be expensive or time consuming. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides resources for healthy and inexpensive recipes, meal planning, grocery shopping tips, and time-efficient food preparation.
Open Heart Kitchen
See website for meal hours and locations
Alameda County Community Food Bank ER Food Helpline
24 hour answering service
Medical, Food, and Cash Assistance (CalFresh, CalWORKS)
3311 Pacific Avenue, Livermore
Tri-Valley Haven Food Pantry
418 Junction Ave., Livermore
Discovery Community Breakfasts
5862 Las Positas Rd., Livermore
Every Sunday 9:30-10:30
Healthy Family Eating Strategies
Considerations for Children and Teens
For Gradeschool Children:
- Slow and consistent growth is typical for children during this period.
- Beyond meals, children often eat several snacks throughout the day, making healthy snack options an important consideration.
- Children can be especially influenced by perceptions of food. What they see being eaten on TV, by their friends, or by their family can influence their preferences and habits.
- Scheduling regular meal times can provide an opportunity to check-in with your child and demonstrate healthy eating behaviors.
- Involving your child in the process of preparing food, from grocery shopping to cooking can help children establish healthy eating habits and become more knowledgeable about their choices.
- The onset of puberty requires a need for more calories. This period of time is also when children can start to pay attention to weight and body image, sometimes resulting in eating disorders. Pay attention to your child’s eating pattern and be aware of any changes.
- Because of the rapid growth during these years, it is important that children receive enough calcium to support bone growth. Milk and milk products are a great source of calcium.
- Gender may play a role in nutrition needs, with females needing more iron-rich foods and males needing slightly more protein.
- Have healthy snacks stored in refrigerator, so they are easily accessible when your child or teen gets hungry.
- Consider setting aside meals as a place with no devices, providing an opportunity for connection.
For more information for teens about healthy eating and weight management, visit the National Institute of Health’s Guide for Teenagers.
Consult your pediatrician for your child’s specific nutrition requirements.