Nutritional Guidelines for Kids of Every Age – Cleveland Clinic

Nutritional Guidelines for Kids of Every Age – Cleveland Clinic

As a mother or father or caregiver, one in all your objectives is to ensure your kids are consuming healthily. But what meals ought to children actually be consuming? And in what quantities?

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“What we eat is foundational for our our bodies,” says pediatric heart specialist Christina Fink, MD. “Kids’ well being relies on consuming the proper forms of meals in the proper proportions.”

She joins pediatric dietitian Diana Schnee, MS, RD, CSP, LD, to speak about dietary pointers, together with serving sizes and portion sizes, for teenagers in all age teams.

Nutritional pointers for teenagers

“The 5 main meals teams provide several types of vitamins,” Dr. Fink explains, “and children want them within the correct proportions.”

Fink says that if you happen to emphasize a balanced plate, you received’t have to hold such a strict concentrate on the variety of servings of every meals group. “Try to concentrate on serving balanced meals and snacks all through the day,” she says.

But what does that imply, precisely? A balanced plate, as modeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate tool, is made up of:

  • Half produce (fruits and veggies)
  • One-quarter protein.
  • One-quarter starch.
  • A serving of dairy on the facet.

You can use the MyPlate to get extra personalised suggestions in your little one. But right here’s a normal breakdown of how a lot of every meals kids ought to every day and instructed portion sizes for teenagers in every age group.


“Eat your veggies” has lengthy been a chorus of oldsters in every single place, and for good cause. “Half of your little one’s plate must be greens and fruits, which supplies them essential vitamins, minerals and nutritional vitamins,” Schnee says.

Here’s how a lot veggies your children must be consuming every day:

  • Ages 12–23 months: 2/3 to 1 cup per day.
  • Ages 2–4 years: 1 to 2 cups per day.
  • Ages 5–8 years: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups per day.
  • Ages 9–13 years: 1 1/2 to three cups per day for women and a couple of to three 1/2 cups per day for boys.
  • Ages 14–18 years: 2 1/2 to three cups per day for women and a couple of 1/2 to 4 cups per day for boys.

If your children don’t appear to be huge veggie followers, experiment with sorts, textures and preparations to search out their faves. Use MyPlate to determine what counts as 1 cup of veggies (for instance, two medium carrots, one giant candy potato, two stalks of celery, and so on.).


Together, fruit and veggies ought to make up about half of your little one’s plate. Here’s how a lot fruit they need to eat every day total:

  • Ages 12–23 months: 1/2 to 1 cup per day.
  • Ages 2–4 years: 1 to 1 1/2 cups per day.
  • Ages 5–8 years: 1 to 2 cups per day.
  • Ages 9–13 years: 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day.
  • Ages 14–18 years: 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day for women and 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day for boys.

Again, MyPlate explains how much of each fruit counts as 1 cup (for instance, one giant banana, 22 grapes, a small wedge of watermelon, and so on.).

Fruit additionally satisfies a candy tooth with out offering any added sugar. And talking of added sugar, be cautious of fruit juice, which is commonly loaded with it. Kids (and adults!) ought to stick to 100% fruit juice — and even then, hold children’ consumption minimal.

“Juice tastes good, but it surely’s mainly simply sugar,” Dr. Fink cautions. “You get extra vitamin out of consuming the fruit straight. Really, children ought to largely be ingesting milk and water.”


“Grains present carbohydrates and starches, which children want for correct progress and growth,” Schnee says. Trying to select wholesome carbs in your children? Go for entire grains as a substitute of simply white bread, which take longer for the physique to course of.

  • Ages 12–23 months: 1 3/4 to three oz. per day.
  • Ages 2–4 years: 3 to five oz. per day.
  • Ages 5–8 years: 4 to six oz. per day.
  • Ages 9–13 years: 5 to 7 oz. per day for women and 5 to 9 oz. per day for boys.
  • Ages 14–18 years: 5 to eight oz. per day for women and 6 to 10 oz. per day for boys.

So, what counts as an oz. of grains? You’re one common slice of bread, half of an English muffin, a 6” flour tortilla or half a cup of rice. MyPlate shares additional serving amounts.


“Protein is without doubt one of the constructing molecules that your physique makes use of to develop and develop,” Dr. Fink says. “But too much protein can put stress on children’ livers and kidneys. They might not drink sufficient, which can improve their threat of dehydration — so don’t overdo it.” Fortunately, she provides that almost all Americans eat the correct quantity of protein of their eating regimen.

Here’s how a lot protein your little one must be getting:

  • Ages 12–23 months: 2 oz. per day.
  • Ages 2–4 years: 2 to five oz. per day.
  • Ages 5–8 years: 3 to five 1/2 oz. per day.
  • Ages 9–13 years: 4 to six oz. per day for women and 5 to six 1/2 oz. for boys.
  • Ages 14–18 years: 5 to six 1/2 oz. per day for women and 5 1/2 to 7 oz. per day for boys.

MyPlate can help you work out what counts as an oz. of assorted forms of protein (for instance, one egg, one slice of lunch meat, 1 tablespoon of nut butter, 1/2 cup of cooked beans, and so on.).

And your little one might have greater than the quantity beneficial in the event that they’re underweight, observe a vegetarian or vegan diet or have a recognized deficiency.


Growing kids need calcium, which they get from dairy merchandise like milk and cheese. But as at all times, an excessive amount of of a very good factor is, effectively, an excessive amount of. Your little one ought to drink not more than three glasses of milk per day.

“Once they’ve already acquired the quantity of calcium they want, ingesting extra milk could take the place of different meals or be a supply of extra vitamin,” Schnee explains. After the toddler part, swap your children from whole milk to low-fat milk to cut back their total fats consumption.

Here’s the correct quantity of dairy in your little one:

  • Ages 12–23 months: 1 2/3 to 2 cups per day.
  • Ages 2–4 years: 2 to 2 1/2 cups per day.
  • Ages 5–8 years: 2 1/2 cups per day.
  • Ages 9–13 years: 3 cups per day.
  • Ages 14–18 years: 3 cups per day.

One cup of dairy quantities to 1/3 cup shredded cheese, a 1/2 pint container of milk or one small yogurt, for instance. MyPlate lists other equivalents that can assist you plan your little one’s meals.

Limit children’ sugar

No, sugar is certainly not one of many 5 meals teams, but it surely’s an vital subject in any dialogue about vitamin.

Too much sugar performs a job in children’ moods, exercise and hyperactivity ranges, and it additionally places them in danger for insulin resistance, prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids beneath 2 years previous don’t eat any added sugar in any respect, whereas children 2 and older should not have any greater than 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.

“You actually need to keep away from extra sugar,” Dr. Fink says. “Natural sugars from meals like fruit and greens are OK, however attempt to steer clear of added or additional sugars. Consume these sparingly or go for merchandise with out added sugars.”

When meals labels, select meals with little to no added sugar, when doable. Added sugars are actually listed individually on meals labels, which makes them straightforward to search out.

Teach children wholesome consuming habits

Serving wholesome meals to your children is a crucial piece of the vitamin equation. But it’s simply as essential that you just equip your children with the proper data to observe a nutritious diet as they grow old.

“Start to coach your kids on making good meals decisions, and do your finest to be a job mannequin for them,” Schnee advises. That means:

  • Modeling wholesome consuming behaviors.
  • Eating balanced, nutritious meals as a household.
  • Encouraging snacks like fruit, veggies and Greek yogurt over sweet and chips.
  • Having wholesome meals accessible at house so that they’re simply accessible.

Teaching your children wholesome consuming habits now will set them up for each a wholesome future and a optimistic relationship with meals.

To hear extra from Dr. Fink on this subject, take heed to the Health Essentials Podcast episode “How to Talk to Your Kids About Healthy Nutrition (And Why It’s Important).” New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast publish each Wednesday.

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