Carbohydrate Needs in Children

Many adults view carbohydrates with scorn and disdain, certain that they are responsible for weight gain. Although too much of anything, including carbohydrates, can cause weight gain, children need plenty of healthy carbs in their diets to sustain energy production and normal growth. The trick is to feed your child healthy carbohydrates rather than junky ones, such as soda and dessert 1. Of course, always speak to your pediatrician before making drastic changes to your child's diet.

How Much Is Enough?

Children are busy, and carbohydrates are what fuels up their bodies so they can run, play and learn. About 50 to 60 percent of a total food intake should be in the form of carbohydrates for children older than the age of 2, according to the KidsHealth website 1. That translates to between 17 and 20 grams of carbs for children between the ages of 4 and 8 and between 22 and 31 grams per day for older children and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Good Carbs

The trick to feeding children carbs is to make sure they're healthy carbs. Complex carbs should make up the bulk of a child's diet because these don't cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, the KidsHealth website notes 1. Complex carbs are usually more nutrient dense, too, supplying key nutrients such as:

  • fiber
  • protein
  • calcium
  • iron

Examples of complex carbs include whole-wheat bread, brown rice, fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its dietary recommendations for children, notes that a diet rich in these foods also reduces the risk of weight gain and heart disease in children 23.

The Bad Carbs

Simple carbs are those that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, but these usually contain fewer beneficial nutrients than complex carbs, as well. Not only are they usually high in calories and sugar, but also they don't supply large doses of essential nutrients either.

Tips For Feeding Kids Carbs

The KidsHealth website recommends keeping unhealthy simple carbs out of your house. When these foods simply aren't available to your children, their hunger will motivate them to eat more nutritious foods that you do keep on hand. Modeling good eating habits is another way to encourage your children to eat plenty of complex carbs, according to KidsHealth. The American Heart Association recommends making at least half of your child's grain intake in the form of whole grains as another way to ensure that he's getting plenty of healthy carbs 3.