Nutrition For Kids – What Do Children Need To Eat?

In a nutshell, your kids need a variety of foods to keep their bodies healthy and running properly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises eating two cups of fruits and two and a half cups of vegetables each day. To help kids envision what this looks like, tell them that a baseball-sized amount is about one cup. So, a small apple or a pile of leafy greens about that size equal one cup. A small computer mouse is about the same as a half-cup of cooked vegetables or canned fruit.

Kids also need an average of three cups of milk or dairy products daily, 6 ounces of grains (use the baseball measurement as the equivalent of one cup of cereal) and about 5½ ounces of protein (a deck of cards is equivalent to 2 to 3 ounces of meat or fish).


Pump up the Produce Volume

When it comes to choosing fruits and vegetables for your kids, follow this general rule: the darker the color, the better. For a quick way to ensure your kids are getting the nutrients they need, give them these produce powerhouses.

Popeye had the right idea – spinach (as well as other dark green leafy vegetables) is a super food – loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes are also a stellar choice, providing a number of healthful benefits including being a good source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium for kids and adults alike. Broccoli is another winner. These “tiny trees” as kids often call them provide fiber, vitamin C, potassium, calcium and more.

If you’re looking for a fruit choice, boost your kids’ berry intake. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries contain great amounts of antioxidants which fight against cancer and other diseases. Since most kids love berries, find ways to add more to their diets. In addition to eating them raw out of hand, try adding berries to kids’ breakfast cereal, mixing them into a smoothie or creating a tasty cobbler for dessert.


To help boost your kids’ nutrient intake of a specific vitamin or mineral, try these fruits and veggies:

For calcium
Broccoli, Cherries, Figs, Kiwifruit, Oranges, Plums, Spinach

For vitamin B2
Beet greens, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Peas, Spinach

For iron
Spinach, Dried apricots, Dried beans (cooked), Lima beans, Nuts

For vitamin B3
Dates, Mushrooms, Potatoes, Nuts

For fiber
Acorn squash, Apples, Artichokes, Asian Pears, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Brussels sprouts, Green beans, Green cabbage, Dates, Figs, Kiwifruit, Lima Beans, Onions, Oranges, Pears, Peas, Persimmons, Pumpkin (canned), Raspberries, Spinach, Sweet potatoes

For folic acid/vitamin B9
Artichokes, Asparagus, Avocados, Bananas, Beets, Bell peppers, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Collard greens, Corn, Grapefruit juice, Green beans, Lettuce (red leaf, green leaf, romaine), Oranges, Orange juice, Papayas, Raspberries, Spinach, Strawberries, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon

For potassium
Dried apricots, Artichokes, Bananas, Beet greens, Bok choy, Broccoli, Cherries, Kiwifruit, Pomegranates, Prune juice, Baked potatoes (with skins), Cooked spinach, Cooked swiss chard, Sun-dried tomatoes, Yellow tomatoes, Cooked yams

For vitamin C
Red and yellow bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chile peppers, Grapefruit, Grapefruit juice (unsweetened), Guava, Honeydew, Kiwifruit, Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Orange juice, Papayas, Pineapple, Raspberries, Spinach, Strawberries, Sweet potatoes, Tomatoes, Watermelon

For magnesium
Artichokes, Spinach

For vitamin D

For vitamin A
Apricots (fresh and dried), Bok choy, Butternut squash, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Collard Greens, Grapefruit, Kale, Lettuce (red leaf, green leaf, romaine), Mangoes, Pumpkin (canned), Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Watermelon

For vitamin E
Asparagus, Avocados, Blackberries, Corn, Dark green leafy vegetables, Kiwifruit, Mangoes, Prunes, Soybeans, Spinach, Sweet potatoes, Nuts

For vitamin B1
Asparagus, Beans (fresh and dried), Corn, Peas (fresh and dried), Pineapple

For vitamin K
Cabbage, Cauliflower, Dark green leafy vegetables, Soybeans, Spinach



Nutrients Kids Need

You know your kids need to eat healthfully to grow properly. But do you know what they need on a daily basis? We’ve made it easy. For a crash course in kiddie nutrition, check out the following charts featuring the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals your child should consume each day.

You’ve heard the message – calcium builds strong bones. Not only that, but calcium helps bones grow longer as well as stronger

1-3 years 500 mg
4-8 years 800 mg
9-18 years 1,300 mg


Iron helps carry oxygen to the cells and helps kids resist disease.

1-10 years 10 mg
11-18 years – boys 12 mg
11-18 years – girls 15 mg


Fiber keeps kids feeling full and aids in smooth bowel movements. Use your child’s age as a guide to figure out how much fiber he or she should consume each day. Simply add 5 grams to your child’s age. For example, a 3-year-old should get 8 grams a day; a 14-year-old should get 19 grams per day.



Potassium helps kids’ muscles, including the heart, to function properly and, it helps to maintain normal blood pressure.

1-3 years 3,000 mg
4-8 years 3,800 mg
9-13 years 4,500 mg
14-18 years 4,700 mg


Magnesium helps keep the nerves, muscles and heart working properly, and it helps to produce energy.

1-3 years 80 mg
4-8 years 130 mg
9-13 years 240 mg
14-18 years – boys 410 mg
14-18 years – girls 360 mg


Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps kids’ eyes to see in the dark, boosts the immune system and keeps the skin and tissues healthy.

1-3 years 300 mcg
4-8 years 400 mcg
9-13 years 600 mcg
14-18 years – boys 900 mcg
14-18 years – girls 700 mcg


Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B1 helps to convert carbohydrates into energy and maintains a healthy nervous system.

1-3 years 0.5 mg
4-8 years 0.6 mg
9-13 years 0.9 mg
14-18 years – boys 1.2 mg
14-18 years – girls 1.1 mg


Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 helps the body break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats and, it helps cells produce energy.

1-3 years 0.5 mg
4-8 years 0.6 mg
9-13 years 0.9 mg
14-18 years – boys 1.3 mg
14-18 years – girls 1.1 mg


Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 promotes healthy digestion and uses the body’s sugars and fatty acids to produce energy.

1-3 years 6 mg
4-8 years 8 mg
9-13 years 12 mg
14-18 years – boys 16 mg
14-18 years – girls 14 mg


Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid helps promote healthy skin and hair and helps to produce red blood cells.

1-3 years 150 mcg
4-8 years 200 mcg
9-13 years 300 mcg
14-18 years 400 mcg


Vitamin C
Most parents know that vitamin C bolsters the immune system. It also speeds up healing, protects the body against bruising and builds healthy gums.

1-3 years 15 mg
4-8 years 25 mg
9-13 years 45 mg
14-18 years – boys 75 mg
14-18 years – girls 65 mg


Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb other important nutrients like calcium and magnesium and keeps the immune system strong.

1-18 years 5 mcg


Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential for a healthy immune system, helps to speed healing and may help prevent some types of cancer.

1-3 years 6 mg
4-8 years 7 mg
9-13 years 11 mg
14-18 years 15 mg


Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps kids’ blood to clot.

1-3 years 30 mcg
4-8 years 55 mcg
9-13 years 60 mcg
14-18 years 75 mcg

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