Healthy Kids Diet Guidelines

By EatingWell Editors

Make healthy shopping and cooking changes now—our simple nutrition guidelines get you started.

Keep fat low.

Children under 2 need a certain amount of fat in their diets to help the brain and nervous system develop correctly. Fat also aids in the absorption of some vitamins: vitamins A, D, E and K can only be absorbed if there's some fat in the diet. While toddlers can drink richer whole or 2% milk, older kids (2+) should drink low-fat or skim milk, along with the rest of the family. Additionally, children ages 2 to 3 should eat a varied diet with about 30 to 35 percent of calories coming from fat. For ages 4 to 18 years, the recommendations decrease to 25 to 35 percent of calories from fat.

Although eating adequate amounts of fat is an important part of a healthy diet, many kids today are eating too much of it, leading to weight gain. The major sources of saturated fat and cholesterol in children’s diets are full-fat milk and cheese and fatty meats. To keep your child’s fat intake in check, offer low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat in appropriate portion sizes, as well as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, which are naturally low in fat. Make an effort to choose healthy, unsaturated fats like canola, olive and other vegetable oils over butter and other solid fats.

Next: Bone up on calcium »

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