Helpful feeding information for your school-age child
School-age children (ages 6 to 12) need healthy foods and nutritious snacks. They
have a consistent but slow rate of growth and usually eat 4 to 5 times a day (including
snacks). Many food habits, likes, and dislikes are set during this time. Family, friends,
and the media (especially TV) influence their food choices and eating habits. School-age
children are often willing to eat a wider variety of foods than their younger siblings.
Eating healthy after-school snacks is important, too, as these snacks may contribute
up to one-fourth of the total calorie intake for the day. School-age children have
developed more advanced feeding skills and are able to help with meal preparation.
Helpful mealtime hints for school-age children
The following are some helpful mealtime hints:
Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be "on the run." Some ideas for a quick,
healthy breakfast include:
Peanut butter sandwich
Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as:
Set good examples for eating habits.
Allow children to help with meal planning and preparation.
Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the television, to avoid distractions.
Healthy food choices
The MyPlate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. MyPlate
can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount
of calories and fat.
The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the plate
to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.
The MyPlate icon is divided into 5 food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional
intake of the following:
Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain
are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, including dark green,
red, and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.
Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh,
canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.
Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group.
Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine.
Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Oils are not a food group, yet some, like nut oils, contain essential nutrients and
can be included in the diet. Animal fats are solid fats and should be avoided.
Exercise and everyday physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary
Nutrition and activity tips
Here are tips to follow:
Try to control when and where food is eaten by your children by providing regular
daily meal times with social interaction and demonstration of healthy eating behaviors.
Involve children in the selection and preparation of foods. Teach them to make healthy
choices by providing opportunities to select foods based on their nutritional value.
For children in general, reported dietary intakes of the following are low enough
to be of concern by the USDA: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods
with these nutrients when possible.
Most Americans need to reduce the number of calories they consume. When it comes to
weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating nonprocessed foods helps limit calorie
intake and increase nutrients.
Parents are encouraged to make recommended serving sizes for children.
Parents are encouraged to limit children’s video, television watching, and computer
use to less than 2 hours daily and replace the sitting activities with activities
that require more movement.
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical
activity on most days to have good health and fitness and for healthy weight during
To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluid regularly during physical
activity and to drink several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity
To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your child’s age, sex,
and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the
ChooseMyPlate.gov and 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the MyPlate
plan is designed for people older than age 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always talk with your child’s health care provider regarding his or her healthy diet
and exercise needs.