Nutrition for School-Age Children

School-age children (ages 6 to 12 years) need healthy foods and nutritious snacks to fuel their busy bodies. They have a consistent but slow rate of growth, requiring them to eat four to five times a day (including snacks). Eating healthy after-school snacks is important, as these snacks may contribute up to one-third of the total calorie intake for the day. Remember that school-age children may also be eating more foods outside of the home.

Many food habits, likes and dislikes are established during this time. This makes it a perfect time to experiment with new foods, as school-age children are often willing to eat a wider variety of foods than their younger siblings. Family, friends and the media (especially TV) influence their food choices and eating habits. Be sure to talk about nutrition, encouraging the child to make their own healthy choices.

Helpful Tips to Ensure Good Nutrition Habits for School-age Children

  • Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be “on the run.” Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include fruit, milk, bagel, cheese toast, cereal, peanut butter sandwich and fruit smoothies.
  • Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables and dip, yogurt, turkey or chicken sandwich, cheese and crackers, or milk and cereal.
  • Show your children what healthy eating looks like by setting a good example at mealtimes.
  • Make healthy foods easily accessible.
  • Allow children to help with meal planning and preparation.
  • Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the television, to avoid distractions.
  • Fill half of the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide calorie-free beverages (water) throughout the day, to avoid filling up on non-nutritive calories.
  • Encourage physical activity daily; this can include organized sporting activities or something as simple as dancing in the living room.

Healthy Food Choices

MyPlate - United States Department of Agriculture

The Choose My Plate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. My Plate can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.

School-age Kids and Nutrition

Lessons on the Lunch Box
Families are busy and time is a precious commodity, so a little planning can go a long way concerning meals for the school age child.

Plate Size and Children's Appetite
Kids who are given a larger plate can consume up to 50% more calories. Follow these tips to control age-appropriate portion sizes.

Fight Obesity with the Right Food
Almost 18 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are obese. However, an improved diet can go a long way toward overcoming the problem.