Should Children & Adults Have the Same Diet?

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Concerns regarding obesity have caused many parents to put their children on restricted diets that eliminate products which contain fat. Consuming fat, however, is necessary for children to properly grow and develop, according to researchers at the University of Delaware, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh and East Carolina University. Children need more fat than adults in their diet, and their nutrient needs vary from those of adults as well.


Besides needing more fat than adults in order to grow and develop, children also burn fat more readily than adults. A study led by John C. Kostyak from the Department of Biology at the University of Delaware looked at how children and adults would burn off the same diet, adjusted only in portion size. Neither the children nor adults exercised during the study. The results, published in the June 2007 “Nutrition Journal,” showed that the children burned fat at a higher rate than the adults, even though their activity levels were the same. Children should obtain their fat from unsaturated fats such as olive oil and fish rather than cakes and pastries, according to Claire Williamson from the British Nutrition Foundation.


Your iron needs change based on your age and gender. For example, infants between the ages of 6 months and 1 year require 11 mg of iron per day, while children between 1 and 3 require 7 mg of iron per day. When men reach 19 years of age, their iron requirement drops to 8 mg for the rest of their lives. Women’s iron requirements go up to 18 mg of iron per day until they reach menopause, when they require only 8 mg of iron daily. Dietary sources of iron include fortified cereals, white beans, soy beans, prunes, spinach, beef and prune juice.


Calcium requirements between males and females are relatively the same, but the requirements for adults vs. children differ. Children require 200 mg of calcium a day during infancy and 1,000 mg a day when they're between the ages of 4 and 8 -- as much as young adults need. A woman's calcium needs increase to 1,200 mg per day after she turns 50. A man needs 1,200 mg of calcium after he turns 70. Good dietary sources of calcium include plain yogurt, sardines, cheese, milk, cottage cheese, tofu, turnips, kale, Chinese cabbage, spinach and soy.


Vitamin requirements are also different for children and adults. If you or your children take vitamin supplements, make certain that the amount is appropriate to your age. If you obtain your vitamins from food, follow government guidelines about serving sizes for children and adults. Foods that contain Vitamin A include liver, beef, milk, cheese, carrots, spinach, kale and apricots. Foods such as clams, fish, poultry , eggs and nutritional yeast contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, potatoes and broccoli.