How Much Does My Kid Need to Eat?

Healthy eating for 7- to 9-year-olds

AGES 7-9 Playing Hard

Daily Calorie Needs 1,700-1,950

Your child's growth slows down more during this time -- boys gain 15 pounds on average from age 4 to 6, but only 10 from age 7 to 9 -- but calorie needs rise because many kids are more active. "Sports and after-school activities like dance and karate are increasingly intense at this age," says Weiss. "So kids end up burning more calories." These pre-tweens often get to make a lot of their own food choices too -- from deciding what to have in the cafeteria to how much to eat when at a friend's house. Make sure they fuel up right:

meal

Alexandra Grablewski

  • Keep an eye on weight. There's a surge in the percent of overweight and obese kids in the years leading up to puberty. "It's normal for kids this age to become heavier in preparation for an impending growth spurt, but if treats get out of control, your child can gain too much weight," says Castle. She suggests limiting treats to one a day, and teaching your child to opt for water instead of soft drinks and other beverages with added sugar.
  • Plan for sports. Give your child a healthy meal or snack containing carbohydrates (such as whole-grain cereal or bread) and protein (such as lean meat, yogurt, or milk) before games. She doesn't need anything except water to drink during and after exercise. Offer sports drinks only if she's playing hard on a hot day for more than an hour, with back-to-back soccer games, for example.
  • Serve (some) favorites. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that about 40 percent of parents cook separate dinner food for their 8- to 10-year-olds. Don't be a short-order cook. But be sure there are always foods on the table that your child likes -- such as fruit, whole-grain bread, or a favorite grain side dish -- so she can still be nourished even if she doesn't love the entrée.

AGES 7-9 Sample Menu

Serve meals with 1 cup of low-fat milk; switch to water if your child is still thirsty. Have water or 100% fruit or vegetable juice at snacktime. Don't exceed 12 ounces of juice daily.

breakfast
1 whole-wheat pita filled with 1 scrambled egg
Sliced orange

lunch
Pasta salad (1 cup whole-wheat pasta mixed with 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes and 1 oz. cheese cubed and drizzled with 1 tsp. olive oil)
1 apple

dinner
2 pieces cheese pizza topped with grilled chicken
1/2 cup broccoli with 2 tbs. low-fat dipping sauce
1 small piece of chocolate

snacks
1/4 cup each almonds and dried chopped apricots or cherries
1 cup edamame sprinkled with salt

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