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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Around the Block: Key Messages

 
Around the Block Parent Sitelet
 

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Boy drinking from a carton of milk

Key Messages

Spot The Block wants kids to take charge of their eating habits and practice good nutrition. Our three key messages offer steps that tweens (ages 9–13) can take to use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages to make informed dietary choices. The information found on the Nutrition Facts Label can help kids make informed dietary choices. By reinforcing these three key messages, parents can encourage children to put this information to use.

  

1. Check Out the Serving Size

The serving size indicates how much of a food is usually consumed at one time. The Nutrition Facts Label information is based on one serving—but remember that one package may contain more than one serving!

Tweens need to get more of some nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals...and less of others, including sodium and sugars. The Nutrition Facts Label on food packages helps children and parents see if a particular food is high or low in many different nutrients.

Children can use the Percent Daily Values (% DV) section of the Nutrition Facts Label to determine whether the packaged food is generally a good source of the nutrients to get more of and if it has low amounts of the nutrients to get less of. (Note: % DV is based on a 2000-calorie daily eating plan.)

  • 5% or less means a food is low in that nutrient
  • 20% or more means a food is high in that nutrient

This information lets your child know how much a certain food contributes to the total amount of nutrients they need in a day.

Adapt Nutrient Requirements to Your Child's Needs - Keep in mind that the Percent Daily Values (% DV) are based upon consuming a diet of 2,000 calories per day for an adult. The actual number of calories and nutrients that your child requires can vary according to your child's age, growth needs, weight, gender, and level of physical activity.

ACTION: To find out your child's individual daily caloric needs, check with the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid at http://www.MyPyramid.gov.

 
2. Consider the Calories

The calories per serving on the Nutrition Facts Label shows how much energy, in the form of calories, one serving of food provides to the body. When looking at a food's calories, remember: 40 is low, 100 is moderate, 400 is high.

A calorie is a measure for a unit of energy that food provides to the body. Calories come from both foods and beverages.

The number of calories listed on the Nutrition Facts Label indicates how many calories are in one serving. Remember, the serving size listed on the label may be smaller than the amount your child actually eats.

The key to achieving a healthy weight is understanding how the calories we eat compare with the calories we use up during the course of our day.

  • To maintain weight, the amount of calories taken in from eating and drinking should equal the amount of calories used from normal physical activity, exercise, and metabolism of food.
  • To lose weight, calories taken in need to be less than calories used.
  • To gain weight, the amount of calories taken in must be more than the amount being used.

Find Out Your Child's Individual Caloric Needs - Factors such as your child's age, growth needs, weight, gender, and level of physical activity can affect the body's daily caloric needs. Check out www.choosemyplate.gov to get an estimate of how many calories your child should consume daily. Remember 40-100-400 When You Consider the Calories! A general rule concerning the amount of calories is:

  • 40 calories per serving is a low amount
  • 100 calories per serving is a moderate amount
  • 400 calories per serving is a high amount

When your child is checking out the calories per serving of an individual food item, remember 40-100-400 is an important way to encourage healthful dietary choices. This simple step allows kids to notice high calorie or low calorie foods and make better choices about which foods to eat.

ACTION: Once you and your child know the amount of calories needed daily, use the calories per serving information to keep track of how many calories are being consumed from each food and throughout the day.
    

3. Choose Nutrients Wisely

Almost all nutrients are important to health, but kids need Get More Of some nutrients and Get Less Of others. Tweens need to get more of some nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals . . .and less of others, including sodium and sugars. The Nutrition Facts Label on food packages helps children and parents see if a particular food is high or low in many different nutrients.

Children can use the Percent Daily Values (% DV) section of the Nutrition Facts Label to determine whether the packaged food is generally a good source of the nutrients to get more of and if it has low amounts of the nutrients to get less of. (Note: % DV is based on a 2000-calorie daily eating plan.)

  • 5% or less means a food is low in that nutrient
  • 20% or more means a food is high in that nutrient

This information lets your child know how much a certain food contributes to the total amount of nutrients they need in a day.

Adapt Nutrient Requirements to Your Child's Needs - Keep in mind that the Percent Daily Values (% DV) are based upon consuming a diet of 2,000 calories per day for an adult. The actual number of calories and nutrients that your child requires can vary according to your child's age, growth needs, weight, gender, and level of physical activity.

ACTION: To find out your child's individual daily caloric needs, check with the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid at http://www.MyPyramid.gov.