For Health Professionals

Healthy Eating Helpful Tips & Resources

Guidelines for Healthy Eating in Children

Health care providers have a great opportunity to guide families on a path to lifelong healthy eating habits. Here are some recommended approaches to healthy nutrition for kids, from infants up to age 17.


Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for children, up to 6 months of age. Continued breastfeeding is beneficial along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years old or beyond.

Breastfeeding benefits include:

  • Breast milk gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality.
  • Breast milk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate sustenance.
    (Source: World Health Organization, 2012)
Formula Feeding

For infants not being breastfed, iron-fortified infant formula should be substituted for breast milk during the first year of life. Lacking evidence, we have no recommendation on when to discontinue formula.
(Source: AAP and AAFP)

Cue-based Feeding

Infants should be fed on demand, in response to hunger cues, and allowed to stop eating based on satiety cues.

Complementary Feeding/Weaning

Complementary feeding/weaning should begin around 6 months of age for most infants. Depending on the physical and psychological readiness or unique needs of the infant, complementary feeding may begin anytime between 4 months and 8 months of age. Nutritional and age-appropriate foods are in addition to, not a replacement for, breast milk or infant formula.
(Sources: AAP and AAFP)

Ages 2-17

Recent USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages moderation goals while meeting nutrient adequacy goals.

These include:

  • Moderate energy intake
  • Reduction of solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS)
  • Consumption of adequate amounts of nutrient-dense foods (but not too much)
  • Reduction of sodium intake

Estimated Daily Calorie Needs

Use the following chart to determine the food intake pattern that's appropriate for a child's individual caloric needs. The calorie range estimates for each age/gender group is based on physical activity level, from sedentary to active, and varies by each child's individual growth and development.

  • Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  • Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

Calorie Range


2-3 years

4-8 years

4-8 years


1,000 calories




1,400 calories



Healthy Eating for Kids Tools & Training

See a variety of printouts and links to more resources to help educate parents on the importance of eating healthy.

Tools from Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS)

Training Resources

From the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at University of North Carolina
From the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Handouts & Resources

If you need more resources to help educate your parents and patients, go to our resources section for health professionals.
View All Resources for Health Professionals »