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.