The Basics of Healthy Eating

Nutritional requirement

By nutritional requirement, we mean the quantity of all the nutrients that a person should consume in order to maintain an adequate state of nutrition and development, permitting optimal growth during childhood.

First principles

Since the 1950´s, the Food and Agriculture Organization (“FAO”) and the World Health Organization (“WHO”) have been consulting groups of experts with the aim of providing recommendations for the consumption of nutrients at world level.

In 1998, the FAO and WHO group of experts established the following proportions of macronutrients to achieve a balanced diet.

FATS OR LIPIDS 25% – 35%
PROTEIN 10% – 15%

  • The quantity of refined sugars should not exceed 10% of the contribution of total carbohydrates.
  • The distribution of fats should be:
    • Saturated: < 10%
    • Monounsaturated: 10-15%
    • Polyunsaturated: 10%
    • Cholesterol: ≤ 300 mg/día
  • Protein not to exceed 20% (quantitatively, the provision of protein should be between 0.75- 1 g/kg/day)

  • Carbohydrates (also called Glucides, Farinaceous Carbohydrates or Sugars) principally have an energy function, supplying energy to the cells.
  • Fats of Lipids have an energy function supplying energy reserves.
  • Protein´s principal function is more dynamic, supplying regenerative elements to cells.
  • Vitamins: a regulatory role. They supply elements that regulate the correct functioning of all cell processes.
  • Mineral Salts: regulatory and dynamic.
  • Water: multiple specific functions.

Calorie requirement

Calorie requirement, assuming sedentary activity, according to age:

  • 4–8 years, calorie requirement of 1,200 kilocalories (girls) and 1,400 kilocalories (boys).
  • 9–13 years, calorie requirement of 1,600 kilocalories (girls) and 1,800 kilocalories (boys).
  • 14–18 years, calorie requirement of 1,800 kilocalories (girls) and 2,200 kilocalories (boys).


Calorie Distribution by Meal, According to Total Calories by Age


Water and fibre requirement

AGE Total Fibre g/day Water L/day
4 – 8 25 1,2
9 – 13 26 (girls) / 31 (boys) 1,6 (girls) / 1,8 (boys)
14 – 18 26 (girls) / 38 (boys) 1,8 (girls) / 2,6 (boys)

The Nutrition Committee of the Spanish Paediatric Association recommends natural mineral water as the main drink, in addition to milk.

Dietary reference intakes

By dietary reference intakes we mean the quantitative contribution of nutrients to achieve good nutrition.

For decades, the Food and Nutrition Board, of the American Institute of Medicine (FNB-IOM) has published and updated Recommended Dietary Allowances (“RDA”).

Adequate intakes

Adequate Intakes (“AI”) are those recommended daily quantities of nutrients where there is insufficient data relating to certain nutrients.
These recommendations can be found on the website of  Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes research synthesis workshop summary. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2006.

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