Feeding young children takes patience, common sense and lots of love. Your reward is knowing that healthy eating habits help children get the energy and important nutrients they need to be their best. When it comes to managing your family’s healthy eating, knowing the correct portion sizes for kids is a great place to start.
Two- to six-year-olds are growing, learning, developing motor skills and becoming more independent. They require the same nutrients adults do, but in different amounts. Since no one food or food group supplies all nutrients, encourage kids to eat a variety of different foods each day. For example, offer foods from three or more food groups for breakfast and lunch and from four or more groups for dinner. Keeping food interesting with different flavors, colors and textures is important to consider when planning portion sizes for children.
Kids need calories (energy) to fuel their activities. How many calories? That depends on age, body size and activity levels. A good gauge is whether your child is growing normally, has energy for play and feels healthy. To help you decide how much and what types of food to offer, go to choosemyplate.gov and enter your child’s age, gender and activity level. MyPlate will recommend an appropriate daily portion size for kids from each food group.
When it comes to planning portion sizes for children, it can be tricky to predict how much food youngsters will eat at any given meal or snack. Their appetites may vary from day-to-day or from one eating occasion to the next. Factors include time of day, degree of hunger, familiarity of foods, activity level, being over-tired and growth spurts.
In general, two- to three-year-olds need the same type of food group foods as four- to six-year-olds, but smaller portions because their calorie needs are lower. One exception: two- to six-year-old children need two daily servings of calcium-rich foods from the Dairy Group for strong bones and teeth. By four years of age, most children are ready for regular-size portions. Go to choosemyplate.gov to learn more.
Source: National SAFE KIDS Campaign and International Food Information Council Foundation
Try these easy-to-prepare Healthy Living recipes and see how appealing portion sizes for children can be.