Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

Serving Sizes

Oils:
Use plant oils, such as canola, olive, and sesame, rather than butter; their mono- and polyunsaturated fats are healthier for the heart and circulation. Daily needs: 1 teaspoon for kids ages 1 to 2; 1 tablespoon (or 3 teaspoons) for kids ages 2 to 5

Meats/Beans:
Choose lean sources of protein, such as poultry, sirloin, fish, tofu, and legumes, because they are lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. Fish also contains brain-boosting and hearth-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Daily needs: 1.5 ounces for kids ages 1 to 2; 2 ounces for kids ages 2 to 3; 3 ounces for kids ages 3 to 5

Dairy:
For toddlers ages 1 and 2, give only whole-milk dairy products, because they need the extra fat for their rapidly growing brain. After age 2, you can switch to low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese and yogurt. Daily needs: Two 8-ounce cups of milk for ages 1 to 5.

Fruits/Vegetables:
They're loaded with vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, and a whole host of phytochemicals -- found to prevent long-term diseases like cancer and heart disease. Daily needs: 1 cup fruit for kids ages 1 to 5; 3/4 cup veggies for ages 1 to 2; 1 cup veggies for ages 2 to 3; 1.5 cups veggies for ages 3 to 5.

Grains:
Carbohydrates found in grains help the brain and body to function properly. Give kids more heart-healthy, digestive-friendly fiber by making the majority of grains whole grains (e.g., brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bread). Daily needs: 1.5 ounces for kids ages 1 to 2; 3 ounces for children ages 2 to 3; 4 ounces for kids ages 3 to 5.

What's on the Menu

Use this sample meal plan as a guide for what to serve from the food groups.

Ages: 1 to 2

  • Breakfast: 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal, 1/2 cup whole milk; 1/2 cup mandarin oranges.
  • Snack: 1/2 cup sliced strawberries; 1/2 cup yogurt.
  • Lunch: 1/2 whole wheat English muffin; 1/4 cup light tuna mixed with 1 teaspoon mayo; 1/4 cup peas; 1 cup water.
  • Snack: 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato; 1/2 cup whole milk.
  • Dinner: 1 ounce grilled chicken cut up; 1/4 cup diced carrots; 1/2 cup whole milk.

Ages: 2 to 5

  • Breakfast: 1 cup whole-grain cereal, 1/2 cup low-fat milk; 1/2 cup mandarin oranges.
  • Snack: 1/2 cup sliced strawberries; 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt.
  • Lunch: 1/2 whole wheat English muffin; 1/4 cup light tuna mixed with 1 teaspoon mayo; 1/4 cup peas; 1 cup water.
  • Snack: 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (for kids ages 2 to 5 add 1 teaspoon trans-fat-free margarine); 1/2 cup low-fat milk.
  • Dinner: 2 ounces grilled chicken cut up; 1/2 cup diced carrots; 1/2 cup low-fat milk.

Shara Aaron, RD, mother to Eli and Oliver, is on American Baby's advisory board.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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