Healthy Meals and Physical Activity

Children Need Healthy Meals Just Like You Do!

The MyPlate food guide is easy to follow and helps you know how to consume nutritious, balanced meals. MyPlate displays a colorful divided plate that includes sections for fruits, vegetables, grains and foods high in protein. Visit MyPlate to learn more.  

Children require more calories than you may think. The number of calories needed differs by their age and level of regular physical activity. These calories support a child’s healthy growth and development into adulthood and provide them with energy needed to be physically active.

Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day so it is important to set a good example as a parent and eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. The sooner you introduce healthful eating and nutritious choices into your child’s diet, the easier they’ll be able to develop a healthy relationship with food.

Daily Recommendations

Food Group

Age 2-3
Years Old

Age 4-8
Years Old

 

Age 9-13
Years Old (Girls)

 

Age 9-13
Years Old (Boys)

Age 14-18
Years Old (Girls)

Age 14-18
Years Old (Boys)

Fruits

1 cup

1 to 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups

2 cups

Vegetables

1 cup

1 1/2 cups

2 cups

2 1/2 cups

2 1/2 cups

3 cups

Grains

3 ounces

5 ounces

5 ounces

6 ounces

6 ounces

8 ounces

Milk/Milk Product

2 cups

2 1/2 cups

3 cups

3 cups

3 cups

3 cups

Meat/Meat Alternative

2 ounces

4 ounces

5 ounces

5 ounces

5 ounces

6 1/2 ounces


Typical Serving Sizes

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 medium fruit
  • 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetable
  • 1 oz. of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1/2 cup canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetable
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1-1/2 oz. of natural cheese
  • 2-3 oz. of lean meat, fish, or poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked dry beans, or 1 tablespoon peanut butter, or 1/3 cup of nuts = 1 oz. lean meat

Healthy Snacks for Children

Healthy snacking is important in a child’s overall healthy eating plan. Healthy snacking can be used to supplement meals and provide your child with the necessary nutrients to fuel up for the day. Snacking doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad habit. It can be used as a way to increase fruit and vegetable intake and expose your child to nutrient-dense foods.

  • Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home.
  • Avoid/limit processed foods and added sugar.
  • Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors.

Snack Ideas

  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with mixed berries
  • Red bell pepper strips with guacamole
  • Pita chips with hummus
  • Carrots with ranch
  • Yogurt parfait
  • Trail mix
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit and cheese kabobs
  • Avocado on whole wheat toast
  • Multigrain crackers and cheese
  • Turkey or ham provolone roll ups

The Importance of Physical Activity in Children

Physical activity is important for sustaining a healthy and happy life. Promoting an active lifestyle is just as important for you as it is for your children. Children need 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Cell phones and video games seem to take up a lot of children’s time and it can be difficult to get children to be more active. These tips may help your child live an active lifestyle and encourage them to use it as a tool for lifelong health.

  • Be a role model for an active lifestyle. Become active together as a family.
  • Encourage physical activity that is fun like dancing, playing with the family pet, or hiking outdoors.
  • Reduce or limit watching television, playing video games, or using a digital device.
  • Provide kids with ways to incorporate outdoor recreation such as bikes, skateboards, jump ropes, and sporting balls.
  • Encourage and support their participation in organized sports, dance classes, and other active recreation like swimming, biking, and running.
  • If your child is very inactive now, gradually increase physical activity and intensity until they become adjusted.

If you would like to know more about the benefits and how to motivate your child to become active, visit Motivating Kids to be Active or Get Moving Alabama.





Page last updated: January 3, 2020