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Nutrition for kids

Help kids meet their nutrient needs by serving kid-friendly foods across all of the food groups

Getting your child to eat more nutritious foods can sometimes be a challenge. Use this guide to find foods that will satisfy the dietary guidelines—and your picky eater. 

Fruit 

Fruit in all forms (fresh, frozen, dried, canned, even juice) counts toward your child’s daily fruit serving—but some choices are smarter than others. If you’re serving dried fruit, check the label to be sure there are no added sugars. If you’re buying canned fruit, look for one packed in natural juice instead of syrup. Choose whole fruits over fruit juice, since juice doesn’t have the fiber found in whole varieties.

How to fit it in: 

  • Add a bowl of fresh fruit to the dinner table

  • Pack an apple or banana for an on-the-go snack 

  • Sprinkle dried fruit over oatmeal

  • Make smoothies from frozen fruit

Vegetables 

Vegetables can be a tough sell for some kids, but they’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals children need. To keep mealtime fun, stop stressing about what your kids won’t eat and focus on introducing new choices they just might love.

How to fit them in: 

  • Serve vegetables with bright colors and interesting shapes, like broccoli, peas, and carrots

  • Let kids dunk veggies in something healthy, like salsa, hummus, or yogurt

  • Add vegetables to kid-friendly foods (try peas or broccoli in mac and cheese, or mushrooms and carrots in spaghetti)

Whole grains 

Fiber helps keep your child’s digestive system regular, and eating whole grains is the best—and most natural—way to get some essential nutrients and fiber. Give your child a good start by ensuring that at least half the grains she eats are whole.

How to fit them in: 

  • Swap whole-grain pasta for the regular stuff

  • Switch from white to brown rice, and try some new whole grains, like quinoa or farro

  • Make sandwiches with whole-grain bread

Protein foods

Fish, beef, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds all deliver protein, giving you plenty of healthy options.

How to fit them in: 

  • Scramble an egg for breakfast

  • Roll a slice of lean turkey with veggies

  • Serve a cup of lentil soup for lunch

  • Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on veggies

Dairy 

Milk, yogurt, and cheese provide a balance of carbs and protein and help kids get the calcium they need for strong bones. Kids ages 1-2 should drink full-fat milk for optimal growth and development; older children should drink nonfat or low-fat (1%) milk.

How to fit it in: 

  • Serve milk instead of juice

  • Pack reduced-fat string cheese with an apple for snack time

  • Add low-fat yogurt to smoothies

  • Substitute milk for water when making oatmeal

© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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