Helpful feeding information for your school-aged child
School-aged children (ages 6 to 12) continue to need healthy foods
and nutritious snacks. They have a consistent but slow rate of growth
and usually eat four to five times a day (including snacks). Many food
habits, likes, and dislikes are established during this time. Family,
friends, and the media (especially TV) influence their food choices and
eating habits. School-aged children are often willing to eat a wider
variety of foods than their younger siblings. Eating healthy
after-school snacks are important, as these snacks may contribute up to
one-third of the total calorie intake for the day. School-aged children
have developed more advanced feeding skills, are better at feeding
skills, and are able to help with meal preparation.
The following are some helpful mealtime hints for school-aged children
- Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be "on the run." Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include the following:
- cheese toast
- peanut butter sandwich
- Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks such as the following:
- vegetables and dip
- turkey or chicken sandwich
- cheese and crackers
- milk and cereal
- 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 food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a
healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a
variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US
Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food
pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 years and
The Food Pyramid is divided into six colored bands representing the five food groups plus oils:
- Orange represents grains: Make half the grains consumed each day
whole grains. Whole-grain foods include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour,
whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Check the food label
on processed foods - the words "whole" or "whole grain" should be listed
before the specific grain in the product.
- Green represents vegetables: Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety
of vegetables, including dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes
(peas and beans), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.
- Red represents fruits: Focus on fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent
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.
- Yellow represents oils: Know the limits on fats, sugars, and salt
(sodium). Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable
oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and
lard, as well as foods that contain these.
- Blue represents milk: Get your calcium-rich foods. Milk and milk
products contain calcium and vitamin D, both important ingredients in
building and maintaining bone tissue. Use low-fat or fat-free milk after
the age of two years. However, during the first year of life, infants
should be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Whole cow's milk
may be introduced after an infant's first birthday, but lower-fat or
skim milk should not be used until the child is at least two years old.
- Purple represents meat and beans: Go lean on protein. Choose low fat
or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine - choose more
fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Activity is also represented on the pyramid by the steps and the
person climbing them, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (the most
recent guidelines), a decrease in energy intake of 50 to 100 calories
per day for children who are gaining excess fat can reduce the rate at
which they gain weight. With this reduction in energy intake, they will
grow into a healthy weight as they age. Help your child to find
higher-calorie foods that can be cut from his/her daily intake.
Nutrition and activity tips
- 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 and 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: vitamin E, calcium,
magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Select foods with these nutrients when
- Most Americans need to reduce the amount of calories they consume. When it comes to weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion sizes and eating non-processed 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 video, television
watching, and computer use to less than two hours daily and replace the
sedentary activities with activities that require more movement.
- Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to
vigorous physical activity on most days for maintenance of good health
and fitness and for healthy weight during growth.
- To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluid regularly
during physical activity and drink several glasses of water or other
fluid after the physical activity is completed.
To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
2005 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 Food Pyramid and 2005 Dietary
Guidelines sites. Please note that the Food Pyramid is designed for
persons over the age of two who do not have chronic health conditions.
Always consult your child's physician regarding his/her healthy diet and exercise requirements.