For Researchers

Healthy Eating Helpful Tips & Resources

Healthy eating is defined as the consumption of food to meet nutrient needs for normal growth and development, metabolism, immunity, and cognitive function without exceeding caloric requirements. (Source: DGA 2010)

The USDA Dietary Guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that
  • emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk, and milk products
  • includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • is low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars

A total diet approach is needed: a combination of foods and beverages that provide energy and nutrients and constitute a child's complete dietary intake, on average, over time. A total diet is energy-balanced and nutrient-dense. (Source: DGA 2010)

A diet high in nutrition contributes to optimal wellness. Healthy eating habits in children promote positive outcomes, including lower blood pressure and a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.


Healthy Foods for Children and Intake Patterns

Food intake patterns are the suggested amounts of food to consume from the basic food groups, subgroups, and oils to meet recommended nutrient intakes at 12 different calorie levels. Nutrient and energy contributions from each group are calculated according to the nutrient-dense forms of foods in each group (e.g., lean meats and fat-free milk).

The table also shows the discretionary calorie allowance that can be accommodated within each calorie level, in addition to the suggested amounts of nutrient-dense forms of foods in each group.

Calorie Range

Children/Age

2-3 years

Girls
4-8 years
9-13
14-18

Boys
4-8 years
9-13
14-18

Sedentary

1,000 calories


1,200
1,600
1,800


1,400
1,800
2,200

Active

1,400 calories


1,800
2,200
2,400


2,000
2,600
3,200

Handouts & Resources

Read more articles and locate additional resources on the importance of encouraging healthy habits in children.
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