How Can Your Child Eat Healthy?

By Anita A. Li (Certified Health Education Specialist), Published: March 13, 2013

To answer this question, it will be helpful to look at the USDA Myplate. You may have seen a variation of this before in the form of a pyramid.

As can be seen in the picture, at least half of your child's food should consist of fruits and vegetables. Grains which include rice, bread, pasta, and cereal also take up a fairly large amount of space on the plate. Proteins that are found in poultry, beef, and seafood should be served in smaller portions. Dairy which is shown on the side is just as important as all the other items on the plate. Dairy rich foods include milk, cheese and yogurt.

As can be seen in the picture, at least half of your child's food should consist of fruits and vegetables. Grains which include rice, bread, pasta, and cereal also take up a fairly large amount of space on the plate. Proteins that are found in poultry, beef, and seafood should be served in smaller portions. Dairy which is shown on the side is just as important as all the other items on the plate. Dairy rich foods include milk, cheese and yogurt.

Children between the ages of 4-13 typically need about:

  • 1 to 1.5 cups of fruits
  • 1.5 to 2.5 cups of vegetables
  • 5 to 6 ounces of grains
  • 4 to 5 ounces of protein foods
  • 2.5 to 3 cups of dairy-rich foods

Remember that when buying foods, look for lean meats, whole grains and low fat items. Try to limit sugar consumption, which is often found in soda, juice, candy, chocolate and other snacks.

Why is eating healthy important for your child?

Studies have shown that consistent intake of high calorie foods with a lack of physical activity attribute to obesity (nih.gov). According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 19.6% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were obese. This is a significant increase of 4.5% since 2005 to 2006.

Children that are obese have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, liver disease, asthma, lower self-esteem, etc. (cdc.gov). Therefore to prevent obesity and other diseases in your child, feed them the proper amounts of food from each food group and have them exercise regularly for about 30 minutes a day.

Other benefits of healthy eating include:

  • More energy to do sports and other activities
  • Getting the necessary amounts of vitamins and minerals
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Increased concentration and focus which may lead to doing better work in school and improved grades
  • Improved memory

Tips to Get Your Child to Eat Healthy

Due to all of the unhealthy food advertisements and the craving for sugary foods, it can be difficult to convince your child to pick the healthier alternative and prevent obesity. Here are some tips that may help you do exactly that:

  • Consistently have family meals.
  • Cook and go grocery shopping with your child.
  • Control your child's food portions.
  • Don't force your child to finish his/her plate.
  • Moderate your child's junk food intake. (You can occasionally give your child candy or chips. You don't have to completely rule out junk food.)
  • Explain how some foods are healthier than others.
  • Learn to read the nutrition label and teach your child to do the same.
  • Act as a role model for your child and eat healthy as well. Children often imitate their parents' behaviors and habits.
  • Keep multiple healthy snacks around the house for your child to choose from.
  • Don't reward your children with food.
  • Limit your child's television, video game and computer time. Encourage them to do more physical activities.


Source: CDC, ChooseMyPlate, KidsHealth