Children and adults both need certain amounts of different nutrients and minerals to survive and stay healthy, but it may be difficult to determine how much children may need at different ages. Children’s preferred eating habits have little to do with what they actually need, so it is important for parents to do the leg work. To make it easier for parents to understand, we have outlined some basics based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If there are specific concerns, they should be addressed with a physician.
Ages 2 to 3
Kids between the ages of 2 and 3 should take in roughly 1,000 to 1,400 calories. This estimate is based on average size, weight, and activity levels, so kids that are more active or larger may consume slightly more, while kids that are smaller or less active should consume less. About 2 to 4 ounces of protein, 1 to ½ cups each fruits and vegetables, and 3 to 5 ounces of grains should make up the bulk of the calories. Dairy or another calcium source should account for 2 to 2 ½ cups of daily intake.
Ages 4 to 8
Size and growth may vary widely between children that are ages 4 to 8, so these factors should be carefully considered when estimating intake for children between those ages. Daily caloric needs may range between 1,200 and 2,000 for children of this age. Between 3 and 5 ounces of protein, between one and two cups of each fruit and vegetables, and 4 to 6 ounces of grains should be eaten. Dairy or substitute should be about 2 ½ to 3 cups daily.
Ages 9 to 13
Between the ages of 9 and 13, caloric needs may range from 1,400 to 2,600. Protein needs may be anywhere from 4 to 6 ½ ounces. Between 1 ½ and 3 cups of each veggies and fruits should be consumed. Dairy should account for about 3 cups and grains should make up between 5 and 8 ounces.