Nutrition for children

Most of the same strategies for healthy eating that work for adults also work for children. Children need the same nutrients as adults, but in different amounts.

Healthy diets for all ages are based on what the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans call nutrient dense foods from different categories. These include:

Fruits and vegetables. A variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits and vegetables that cover the color spectrum: red tomatoes and strawberries; oranges and carrots; yellow squashes and bananas; leafy greens, avocadoes, and limes; blueberries; and purple grapes and eggplant. As a rule, the richer the color, the healthier the food.

Grains. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, or whole-grain bread.

Protein. Fish and other types of seafood, poultry, poultry, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and lean meats.

Dairy foods. Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods.

Fats. Don't fear fats—as long as they are healthy fats from foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

At the same time, it's best to limit a child's intake of foods with:

  • added sugar, such as sweetened breakfast cereals, sodas, juices, pastries, and the like
  • solid fats, such as hot dogs and other fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, and many prepared foods
  • added salt in chips, breads, and many processed and prepared foods

Nutrition for children Articles

Coming to a shelf near you: The new Nutrition Facts labels

The new Nutrition Facts labels on food packages will have a refreshed design to help consumers make healthier food choices. Among the changes are a larger, bold type style for information about calories, servings per container, and serving sizes. Serving sizes will be changed to reflect the amounts of food people actually eat. The labels will remove the “calories from fat” line while continuing to list types of fat. And for the first time, the label will include a line about added sugars, so consumers will know how many grams of sweeteners have been added to foods during processing. (Locked) More »

Uncover the hidden sugar in your foods

Dr. Terry Schraeder and Uma Naidoo, MD, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a professional chef, discuss the significant amount of hidden sugar in everyday food and drinks. More »

Children and Breakfast — Follow Your Intuition

Many parents hate to see their children skip breakfast before sending them off in the morning. Reason tells them that in order to maximize learning in school, children's bodies need plenty of fuel. A recent study indicates that parents' intuition may be correct: Well-fed children make more progress in school than children who leave home with their stomachs empty. Children are more vulnerable than adults to missing a meal. The brain of a child is not just a scaled down version of an adult brain. It is larger in proportion to his or her body. Though the brain makes up only one-fiftieth of a child's body mass, it uses about half of the body's stores of energy. It is also changing rapidly: Nerve cells are growing and cell connections are adjusting rapidly in response to the environment. All of this increases the brain's demand for energy. Our understanding of food intake and mental ability comes from studies of the effect of starvation. We know that severe food deprivation is a huge problem for intellectual growth. But these studies don't tell us much about the impact of missing a single meal. And we tend to worry more about the consequences of obesity in the United States, so we may consider a missed meal here and there a good thing. (Locked) More »

School Lunches

Working all morning at school burns up a lot of energy, so children need healthy lunches to refuel. Children also need lunch to provide enough energy and nutrients to keep healthy and grow as well as possible. Be sure you encourage your child to eat a nutritious lunch every day, either from the school cafeteria or brought in from home. However, just because the cafeteria offers healthy food or you pack a nutritious lunch for your child, doesn't mean your child will actually eat it. You must teach your child to make healthy choices. Remember to start by setting a good example at home with your own eating habits. More »