Updated September 9, 2020Children need certain nutrients in their daily diet to ensure proper growth and development. To help parents build healthier meals and teach their kids the importance of nutrition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed MyPlate.The MyPlate infographic features a plate broken up into five different categories, with each representing one of the five major food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. This image serves as a reminder to include various foods in your diet and focus on nutrient-rich foods.The infographic itself doesn’t list recommended portion sizes for each category. However, detailed nutrition guidelines for every age are available on the MyPlate website.Throughout this article, we outline the USDA’s recommendations for children of all ages. With a thorough understanding of these guidelines, you can teach your children sustainable habits and prepare healthy, balanced meals at home.MyPlate vs. MyPyramidIn 2005, the USDA launched their “MyPyramid” guide, an update to their original 1992 Food Guide Pyramid. MyPyramid introduced the concept of physical activity in overall health by adding the image of a person walking along the pyramid’s sides. By removing specific serving recommendations from the infographic, the USDA emphasizes the idea of individualized nutrition based on age and gender, rather than general guidelines that apply to all.To advance individual needs further, they created the “MyPlate” concept in 2011. The plate’s image connects more closely to mealtime and serves as a reminder that the journey to healthy eating may look slightly different for each person.MyPlate ResourcesResources found on the MyPlate website can help parents structure their child’s diet. These guidelines are broken down for preschool-age children, older children, teens, and college students. There are also interactive games, activity sheets, videos, and songs to help parents educate their children about proper nutrition.The website includes the following guidelines for each of the five primary food groups. It also includes tips for monitoring snacks, fat intake, and managing picky eaters.GrainsThe USDA suggests half of the grains your child eats be 100 percent whole-grain foods. By offering your child brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread, you help them incorporate more dietary fiber into their diet. Dietary fiber helps your child feel full for more extended periods and aids in digestion.Age RangeRecommended Daily Intake of GrainsChildren ages 2 to 33 ounces, at least 1 ½ ounces from whole grain foodsChildren ages 4 to 85 ounces, at least 2 ½ ounces from whole grain foodsGirls ages 9 to 135 ounces, at least 3 ounces from whole grain foodsBoys ages 9 to 136 ounces, at least 3 ounces from whole grain foodsGirls ages 14 to 186 ounces, at least 3 ounces from whole grain foodsBoys ages 14 to 188 ounces, at least 4 ounces from whole grain foodsFruitsWhen it comes to feeding your child fruit, the USDA suggests aiming for various colors to ensure they get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Red fruits contain antioxidants, which reduce the risk of developing hypertension and high cholesterol. Blue and purple fruits regulate digestion and aid in memory and immune function. Orange and yellow fruits are full of vitamin C and play a key role in building strong bones.Serving children fresh fruit is best, but you can also incorporate dried, canned, and frozen fruit. However, avoid giving them gummy fruit snacks, which contain added sugars and very little actual fruit. Most store-bought fruit juices also contain added sugars, so be sure to limit their consumption.Age RangeRecommended Daily Intake of FruitChildren ages 2 to 31 cupChildren ages 4 to 81 to 1 ½ cupsGirls ages 9 to 131 ½ cupsBoys ages 9 to 131 ½ cupsGirls ages 14 to 181 ½ cupsBoys ages 14 to 182 cupsVegetablesWhile it may not always be easy to get your child to eat their veggies, it is definitely worth the effort. Like, fresh fruit, vegetables are packed with various nutrients children need for development and a healthy immune system. For example, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, contain beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which are antibacterial and prevent cell damage.When preparing veggies for your child, you can use fresh or frozen varieties. You can also make them a delicious green smoothie loaded with healthy fruits and vegetables.Age RangeRecommended Daily Intake of VegetablesChildren ages 2 to 31 cupChildren ages 4 to 81 ½ cupsGirls ages 9 to 132 cupsBoys ages 9 to 132 ½ cupsGirls ages 14 to 182 ½ cupsBoys ages 14 to 183 cupsProteinProtein helps in the development of bones, muscles, cartilage, and blood cells. However, be sure most of your child’s protein comes from a plant-based source, such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens—for example, many protein shakes are made primarily of green veggies. It is a common misconception that meat is the only good source of protein available. Many plant-based foods are rich in protein; just one serving of kidney beans has 18 grams of protein. If your child does eat meat, it should be lean and low-fat.Age RangeRecommended Daily Intake of ProteinChildren ages 2 to 32 ouncesChildren ages 4 to 84 ouncesGirls ages 9 to 135 ouncesBoys ages 9 to 135 ouncesGirls ages 14 to 185 ouncesBoys ages 14 to 186 ½ ouncesDairyMany store-bought dairy products, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, have added sugars and little to no calcium. However, some nonfat dairy foods are healthy in moderation and offer a good source of vitamins children need for growth. For example, calcium-fortified soymilk, nonfat Greek yogurt, and certain cheeses are good calcium and vitamin D sources.Plus, yogurt contains probiotics—living microorganisms that promote the development of good bacteria and eliminate harmful bacteria in the gut. Yogurt makes an excellent sweet treat when topped with fruit. You can also add it to a smoothie or a dip for fresh fruit.Age RangeRecommended Daily Intake of DairyChildren ages 2 to 32 cupsChildren ages 4 to 82 ½ cupsChildren ages 9 to 183 cupsSnacks and BeveragesFor snacks, it is best to avoid processed foods wherever possible and serve your child fruits and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and seeds. You can pre-portion snacks ahead of time in reusable bags and glass containers. Packaged low-fat string cheese, whole-grain crackers, and granola bars are also a good option in a pinch.When it comes to drinks, encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary sodas and fruit juices. Generally, your child’s age can help you determine how many 8 ounce cups of water they should have in a day. For example, a 1-year-old should have 1 cup of water a day, and a 2-year-old should have 2 cups of water. Kids 8 and older should have 8 cups of water a day.FatsThe MyPlate nutrition guidelines focus on low-fat over high-fat foods. While it is undoubtedly important to eat a low-fat diet, not all fats are unhealthy. Avocados contain both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, regulate blood sugar, and decrease inflammation.Nuts and seeds contain one of the three omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Egg yolks and seafood have the other two, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats are essential for both brain and heart health.Encouraging the public to limit their fat intake may inadvertently cause them to limit their consumption of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.While the MyPlate guidelines do not explicitly encourage the consumption of fatty acids, information on the different types of fats is readily available on the website.Including avocados, nuts, seeds, pastured eggs, and fish into your child’s diet will ensure they are getting the healthy fats they need for proper brain development and immune function.Feeding Picky EatersIf your child is a picky eater, getting them to eat a healthy, balanced diet can be stressful; this is especially true when introducing new foods. Children often refuse foods based on color or texture. They may also procrastinate and waste time at the table if the meal is not something they are familiar with.In most cases, this behavior is temporary, but it can be frustrating while it lasts. The USDA offers the following tips to help parents cope with a picky eater.Grocery shopping: Take your child shopping with you and let them select the fruits and vegetables you bring home.Cook with your child: When children are involved in the cooking process, they will be excited to eat the food they made. Let your child wash vegetables and stir ingredients.Offer choices: Asking your child, “What do you want for dinner?” may overwhelm them. Instead, ask them, “Do you want broccoli or cauliflower for dinner?” You can also let them customize their plate by selecting what they want from various prepared foods.Make mealtime fun: When eating together as a family, bring up fun, lighthearted topics. When your child is stressed, they may learn to associate those negative emotions with mealtime.Offer the same foods to the whole family: Everyone at the table should be eating the same foods. If your child sees other family members enjoying the meal, they may be more inclined to try it.Getting Your Child ActiveIn addition to healthy eating, regular exercise is essential for overall physical and mental health. If your child participates in at least 60 minutes of active playtime each day, and 15 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week, they will experience the following benefits:Healthy bones growth and maintenanceLess stress and anxietyIncreased metabolismTeamworkHigh self-esteemSelf-disciplineWhen it comes to exercise, you should lead by example. When your child sees you and other family members being active, they are more likely to participate.Frequently Asked QuestionsWhat are the five parts of the food pyramid?The original USDA food pyramid introduced in 1992 has six colorful blocks that represented the major food groups. The grain group made up the pyramid’s base, with vegetables and fruits in the middle. Dairy and meat groups were just below the pyramid’s top. Fats, oils, and sweets sat at the very top of the structure.As you move from the bottom of the design to the top, the serving recommendations become smaller, indicating which foods you should eat more of.Today, the MyPlate infographic has five food categories: protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The new model emphasizes the importance of individualized needs.What made the food pyramid?The USDA created the food pyramid in 1992. It was initially broken up into six horizontal sections for each food group. In 2005, the USDA changed this model to a pyramid with vertical wedges for each food group. They also added a figure walking along the side of the pyramid to emphasize the importance of exercise.What are the five methods of cooking?There are several methods of cooking you can use to prepare healthy, delicious foods. The most popular are baking, roasting, frying, grilling, and sauteing. You can also smoke, boil, steam, and braise foods.What time should an 8-year old go to bed?Your child’s bedtime depends on what time they need to wake up in the morning. An 8-year-old child needs between 9 and 12 hours of sleep per night. To determine their bedtime, you should count backward from the time they need to wake. For example, if your child needs to get up at 7 a.m., their bedtime should be between 7 and 10 p.m. You can also use a sleep calculator to calculate precise bedtimes and wake times.How can parents influence their child’s eating habits?The best way to influence your child’s eating habits is to lead by example. When your child sees you eating and preparing healthy foods, they are more likely to follow your lead.Being consistent in your message is also helpful. If your child feels like you will give in to their demands for junk food, they may refuse the healthy option until you do so. It is important to stay true to your goal, no matter how frustrating it may be.ConclusionThe new MyPlate infographic and online resources make it easy to teach your child the value of healthy eating. The best way to foster lifelong habits is to get children excited about food and nutrition. With the guidelines outlined by the USDA and some creativity, you can set your child up for a lifetime of good health.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.