Healthy Eating Plan for Kids

Kids will often eat healthy food if it is available and they aren't only offered junk food.

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Are your kids healthy eaters?

That doesn't necessarily mean that they eat a lot, but rather do they eat a lot of healthy foods?

Healthy Eating

If you have a picky eater at home, your kids may be nowhere near the healthy eating plan recommended by the Choose My Plate guidelines, which say that kids should, depending on their age:

  • Eat 1 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit each day (older kids need more)
  • Eat 1 to 4 cups of vegetables each day
  • Drink 2 to 3 cups of milk each day (typically fat-free or low-fat for kids who are at least two years old)
  • Eat 2 to 7 ounces of low-fat or lean meat or chicken, or other foods from the Meat and Beans food group, such as fish, beans, peas, eggs, etc.
  • Get half of their grains from whole grains

Following these healthy eating recommendations will help your kids follow a diet with a lot of foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and have the calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals your kids need. These recommendations also help them avoid high-calorie and high-fat foods that can lead to childhood obesity and other health problems.

Starting a Healthy Eating Plan

If your kids don't eat well, you might view the food pyramid as a goal to reach for and use this healthy eating plan to get there:

  • Offer your kids at least one serving of fruit each day.
  • Offer your kids at least one serving of vegetables each day.
  • Offer your kids at least one serving of nonfat milk (skim milk) or low-fat milk (1% or 2% milk) each day or other high-calcium food, like cheese made with low-fat milk.
  • Limit 100% fruit juice to only one serving a day.
  • Eat most meals at home together as a family.
  • Offer at least one whole grain food each day, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, or a whole-grain breakfast cereal.
  • Cook foods by baking, grilling, or roasting as often as possible, instead of frying them.
  • Prepare and serve whole foods as often as possible instead of the processed and packaged kids' meals that are often high in fat, calories, and salt, and low in fiber.
  • Offer age-appropriate portion sizes when your child eats meals and snacks.

As your kids learn to make healthy choices and start to eat better, you can then move closer to the Choose My Plate guidelines—for example, starting to offer them 1 1/2 servings of vegetables each day.

It may take some time, but having a healthy eating plan will help move your kids away from wanting to eat chicken nuggets and french fries at every meal.

What to Know About Healthy Eating Plans

To help your kids with their healthy eating plan, it may also help to:

  • Avoid flavorings that can make milk less healthy, keeping in mind that chocolate milk or strawberry milk flavoring will usually add more sugar and calories to your child's serving of milk.
  • Avoid serving, or don't serve, fried meats, such as chicken nuggets, corn dogs, or fish sticks, more than once a week.
  • Avoid serving or don't serve high-fat meats, such as sausage, bacon, hot dogs, or bologna, more than once a week.
  • Don't give your kids drinks with a lot of added sugar, such as sweet tea, soda, or fruit punch, or any fruit drinks less than 100% fruit juice.
  • Avoid eating fast food and make healthy choices when you do go out to eat at a restaurant.
  • Avoid giving sweets on a regular basis, limiting candy, cookies, and cakes to occasional treats, and offering healthy snacks between meals and for dessert instead.

Combined with regular physical activity on most days, this healthy eating plan can help your kids maintain a healthy weight or even begin to lose weight if they are already overweight.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. US Dept. of Agriculture. Tips for Picky Eaters. Updated 2020.

  2. US Dept. of Agriculture. Choose My Plate. Choose MyPlate: 10 Tips to a Great Plate. Updated 2020.

  3. US Dept. of Agriculture. A Brief History of USDA Food Guides. Updated 2020.

  4. Blackstone NT, Conrad Z. Comparing the Recommended Eating Patterns of the EAT-Lancet Commission and Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Implications for Sustainable NutritionCurr Dev Nutr. 2020;4(3):nzaa015. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzaa015

  5. American College of Cardiology. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020): Knowing the New Recommendations for Healthy Eating Patterns. Expert Analysis. By Jennifer Fleming and Penny M. Kris-Etherton. March 7, 2016. Washington, DC: American College of Cardiology 2020.

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