Helpful feeding information for your school-age child
School-age children (ages 6 to 12) need healthy foods and nutritious snacks. They
have a steady but slow rate of growth and usually eat 4 to 5 times a day (with snacks).
Many food habits, likes, and dislikes are set during this time. Family, friends, and
the media (chiefly TV) effect 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 can also help
with meal prep.
Helpful mealtime hints for school-age children
These 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.
Let children help with meal planning and preparation.
Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the TV, 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 choosing 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. Aim
for mostly whole-grains.
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. The American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends children age 7 to 18 should limit juice to 8 ounces
or 1 cup of juice per day.
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, have vital 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. Include social interaction and demonstrate healthy eating behaviors.
Involve children in picking and preparing foods. Teach them to make healthy choices
by giving them a chance to choose healthy foods.
Select foods with these nutrients possible: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Select foods with these nutrients when possible.
Most Americans need to cut 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 provide recommended serving sizes for children.
Parents are encouraged to limit children’s screen time to less than 2 hours daily.
Instead, encourage activities that call for more movement.
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical
activity on most days for good health and fitness and for healthy weight during growth.
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 healthcare provider about his or her healthy diet and