It’s meal time, and you hear calls for chicken nuggets again. While it’s fine to incorporate the occasional less than healthy treat into the weekly rotation, that treatment needs to be part of a diet that’s mostly balanced.
Kids can be tough about what they want to eat, and as a parent, you know that a fed child is better than a hungry child. Appropriate serving sizes of these healthy foods for kids will make it easier to bring better choices to the table.
Understanding Portion Sizes for Children
Children will naturally eat smaller amounts, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to allow them to skip out on their veggies.
- Fruits: 2 to 3 servings per day
- Vegetables: 2 to 3 servings per day
- Grains: 6 to11 servings per day
- Proteins: 2 servings per day
- Dairy: 2 to 3 servings per day
Serving sizes will vary from food to food, but these are a few general rules for each food group. Young children still learning their tastes may not eagerly complete things like vegetables, but measuring their food before you serve it will help you keep your child on track.
Some children will require modifications to a standard diet. Children who cannot consume animal products will need an alternative specially balanced diet. They may require more servings like lentils to make up the difference. Consider soy products as a nutritionally similar replacement for dairy, as most other plant milk lacks the nutrients that make dairy products so beneficial for children.
Serving Sizes for Kids Up to Six Years
When you look at things from this perspective, you’ll realize it doesn’t have to be challenging to get your child to consume half a cup of cooked vegetables and a whole piece of fruit for an entire day. Parents may feel better knowing what they’re up against.
- 1/2 of an apple or orange
- ¼ cup of cooked vegetables
- ½ slice of whole wheat bread
- 1 ounce of meat
- ½ cup of milk
Serving Sizes for Kids Up to 10 Years
By the age of 10, most children will begin to gravitate away from many picky eating behaviors. They’re also old enough to tell you what they want, making mealtime much simpler.
Your child may not be willing to eat a serving of peas, but you can compromise with some butternut squash or roasted carrots. You can also tuck some veggies into a sandwich and get two servings of whole grains out of the way. Other substitutions include:
- One fresh fruit
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- One slice of whole wheat bread
- 3 ounces of meat
- 1 cup of milk
Serving Sizes for Children Older Than Ten
Children over the age of ten will b be egin to gravitate towards adult serving sizes. Teenagers are often voracious eaters, especially if they’re athletic. You should begin serving adolescent children typical adult serving sizes of food.
Start by asking your ten-year-old if they’re still hungry after finishing their plate. Even if they aren’t hungry, they’ll likely say yes to dessert, so that shouldn’t be your first offering. Give them a little bit more of each food on their plate and let them tell you how their appetite is changing.
Most children enjoy eggs, especially if they’re scrambled. Scrambled eggs make an excellent breakfast for everyone, toddlers included. The neutral flavor and light texture of scrambled eggs makes them easy to incorporate into other dishes or serve on their own. It’s easy to add vegetables or low-fat cheese to eggs, bumping up their nutritional value and including a few other important daily servings.
Low Fat Yogurt (and Frozen Yogurt)
Low-fat yogurt is a versatile food that many kids enjoy. It’s easy to incorporate fruit into the mix, and kids will really appreciate the opportunity to choose their fruit mix-ins and stir them in themselves. You can also use yogurt in smoothies for a healthy snack or healthy breakfast. It might make a little bit of a mess, but nothing is better than a child who is enthusiastic about healthy eating habits.
Be wary of children’s yogurt snacks. These snacks typically contain artificial flavors and lots of sugar. Nothing in nature tastes like cotton candy, sour gummies, or birthday cake. Stick with plain or vanilla yogurt with low sugar content and let them make the flavor fun themselves.
Frozen yogurt is a great way to pack some extra nutrition into your child’s dessert. High-quality, low-fat frozen yogurts still contain some live and active cultures that give yogurt its digestive benefits. Although frozen yogurt contains fewer probiotics than refrigerated yogurt, ice cream has absolutely none. It’s better to choose a modest benefit than to go without.
Baked potatoes are naturally a little bland, which is why most children prefer them fried and tossed with salt. Why not offer them an alternative that’s delicious when baked and lightly seasoned?
Baked sweet potato wedges or mashed sweet potatoes are an excellent side dish for many meals. Most kids find the sweet flavor appealing, and they work just as well with ketchup as traditional french fries.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins, giving your child a boost of vitamin A, B, C, and D, as well as necessary minerals like calcium and iron.
Veggies With Hummus or a Light Cheese Sauce
Almost any vegetable immediately becomes more appealing when it’s drizzled with a little bit of low-fat cheese sauce. Many adults will agree with the kids on this one. If adding familiar or tasty flavors to vegetables makes your kids a little more eager to eat them, why not dress things up a little bit?
As long as you’re counting the dairy towards your child’s daily servings and you aren’t incorporating unnecessary fats, it all works out the same in the end. Cauliflower and broccoli are often topped with cheese, or you can pair cherry tomatoes or carrots with some hummus.
If you were to put a whole avocado in front of a young child, they might be perplexed by what they’re seeing. Avocados don’t necessarily look delicious, but they’re definitely tasty. They also contain tons of healthy fats the body needs to promote cell health, reduce the risk of heart disease, and support cognitive function.
Try substituting mashed avocado for mayonnaise on sandwiches. Give your children mild guacamole as a dip for their favorite foods. Add avocado as an ingredient for “make your own taco” night.
Nut Butters and Seed Butters
Nut butters, like peanut butter and seed butter, are nutritionally similar. If your child has an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts, sunflower seed butter is the perfect alternative. These butters are often high in vitamins and protein, making them easy to pack a little more nutrition onto something plain like whole-grain toast or whole-wheat bread.
Just make sure to read the food labels well. Avoid nut and seed butters with added sugar. If you’re looking to sweeten things up, fruit preserves or sliced berries are a great way to top off a sandwich.
How Do I Introduce New Foods to My Children?
A radical and sudden diet shakeup isn’t going to go over too well with children. They prefer their routines, and when everything suddenly changes, they may feel like they’re in trouble or that you aren’t considering their feelings. Just remember to take things slow.
Introduce new foods one at a time. Serve them up a few times over the course of the week, and encourage your child to try them. They don’t necessarily have to love every new food, and that’s okay. What’s important is that they eat a meaningful amount of new healthy foods instead of filling up on pasta, potato chips, and fruit juice.
Over time, your child will develop preferences. Lima beans may be a hard limit every time, but if your child will eat black bean tacos or roasted string beans, be willing to make that compromise. You probably have foods you’ve never grown to appreciate, and there may be a few things your child will never come to like.
As long as your child’s list of likes is longer than their list of dislikes, you’re on the right track. Stay patient and keep working on it.
What to Do When They’re Still Picky Eaters
If you’re having trouble with dietary restrictions, food aversions, or picky eating, it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatrician about possible vitamin and nutrient supplementation. It’s normal for picky eaters to need a little extra help getting in their recommended daily amounts of key vitamins and minerals.
Our vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free kids chewable multivitamins are sweetened with monk fruit and mannitol and naturally flavored. They’re formulated to contain 15 vitamins, and minerals children often need a little help getting in their diet. Maybe one day they’ll outgrow their picky eating behaviors, and until they do, there’s always Hiya.