Children’s Daily Nutrition for Every Age


I’m a little embarrassed to confess that I have been coasting on my own general ideas about food and nutrition to feed my kiddos, who are now 11 and 8 years old. Lately, my daughter has been getting angry at how unfair it is that her older, much larger brother gets to eat more food than her. In the process of sharing common sense food advice with her, I realized how little I actually knew about kids nutrition and what she or her brother really needed. As they have grown into their own unique selves, it is becoming clear that they also have a unique set of nutritional needs for their particular age, sex, and body types.

I consulted our family pediatrician. It turns out there is so much information about kids nutrition that even the doctor can’t keep it all in his head. He assembled for me a hefty stack of flyers with information all about kids nutrition at every age from several online agencies, state and national food councils, and publications. Next month I will share a set of lunch-box menus to inspire you with new ideas and fuel your kids with what they need to get through the school year healthy and strong. 

Kids Daily Nutrition Needs : Portland Moms Blog

General Conclusions

Calcium and Vitamins D, C, and A are important to watch for. They are the most commonly deficient among American children, and they are critical building blocks for bones and the immune system. No matter what diet you choose, it is also advisable to give a daily multi-vitamin with Vitamin D to make sure your kids are getting a broad spectrum of what they need to cover inconsistencies in what they eat day to day.

Suggested calories are only general guidelines that should be adjusted for your child’s level of daily activity and body size. The following is a summary of what I have learned:

Daily Nutrition Needs


From birth to one year, infant nutrition is a slow steady transition from breast milk and/or formula to cereal followed by pureed and solid real foods. These transitions can be delicate and challenging based on developmental delays in the digestive system and food allergies as they present themselves. Please consult your physician for exact nutritional guidelines specific to your baby. 

1-3 Year-Olds

1000 calories per day

  • 1000 mg calcium or 2.5 servings dairy
  • 1 serving of 2-3 oz. protein
  • 2-3 servings 2-3 oz. grains
  • 4 or more servings fruit & veggies, 2 rich in vitamin C and 2 rich in vitamin A
  • 3 teaspoons healthy fats
  • Sugar only on occasion 

4-8 Year-Olds

1300 calories per day

  • 1000 mg calcium or 2.5 servings dairy
  • 1-2 servings of 3-4 oz. protein
  • 4-6 servings of 4-6 oz.  grains
  • 4 or more servings fruit & veggies, 2 rich in vitamin C and 2 rich in vitamin A
  • 4 teaspoons healthy fats 
  • Sugar only on occasion 

9-11 Year-Olds

1600 calories per day for girls, 1800 calories per day for boys

  • 1300 mg calcium or 3-4 servings dairy 
  • 2 servings of 4-5 oz. protein
  • 4-6 servings of 4-6 oz. grains
  • 4 or more servings fruit & veggies, 2 rich in vitamin C and 2 rich in vitamin A
  • 5 teaspoons healthy fats
  • Sugar only on occasion 

12-18 Year-Olds

1800 calories per day for girls, 2200 calories per day for boys

  • 1300 mg calcium or 3-4 servings dairy
  • 2-3 servings of 6 oz. protein
  • 5-6 servings of 6 oz. grains
  • 6 or more servings fruit & veggies, 2 rich in vitamin C and 2 rich in vitamin A
  • 5 teaspoons healthy fats for girls, 6 for boys 
  • Sugar only on occasion 

Suggested Food Groups & Full Serving Portions


  • 1 oz. cooked lean meats and seafood
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup cottage  cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas.

Cheese has protein, but doesn’t have enough iron to be considered a full serving.


  • 1 slice bread
  • 1/2 cup cereal
  • 1/4 cup cooked cereal
  • 1/4 cup pasta or rice
  • 1/2 bagel, muffin or biscuit

Serve whole wheat to preserve fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Fruits and Veggies

  • Rich in Vitamin C: greens, sweet potato, tomato, cantaloupe, papaya, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, orange, strawberries, tangerines.
  • Rich in Vitamin A: bok choy, carrots, sweet potato, greens, spinach, winter squash, apricots, nectarines, peaches, watermellon. 
  • Other good options: beets, cabbage, celery, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, sprouts, turnips, corn, apple, banana, berries, cherries, grapes, pears, plum, pineapple. 

Healthy Fats

  • Avocado
  • Butter and oils (olive, coconut, grape seed, avocado, walnut)
  • Salad dressings
  • Mayonnaise

Foods to Avoid

Sugar, soda, refined white breads, fried foods, sugar-added juices, fast-food, candy, jelly, syrup, cake, pie, cookies, pastries, and sugar-coated cereals and snacks

General Portion Guidelines

  • 1 cup = 1 fist (measure grains, dairy, fruit & veggies this way)
  • 3 oz. – palm of your hand (measure lean meats)
  • 1/2 cup = one handfull (measure rice, oatmeal, and pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon = 1 thumb (peanut butter)
  • 1 1/2 oz. = 1 pointer finger (hard cheese)
  • 1 slice bread = flat hand
  • 1 teaspoon = thumb tip (fats, mayonnaise, condiments, butter, sugar)  
Previous articleWhat Can We Teach Our Kids About Politics?
Next articleHow to Survive the After-School Car Line
Katie is a native of Portland, Oregon and lives in Tigard with her two young children and husband Rob. She is a cooking enthusiast, athlete, and a graphic designer by trade. She has spent the last 15 years learning about health and nutrition, mastering the art of healthy cooking for weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Her passion for food comes from her own experience losing weight and craving something delicious along the way. She is the author of a cookbook, and she continues to write recipes on her blog Eating Lean & Green. She writes with the intention to provide healthy alternatives for favorite foods that not only fuel your body, but taste good enough that you'll want to share them with the people that you love.


Comments are closed.