Proper Nutrition for Children: Are We Killing Our Children?

proper nutrition for infants and children
nutrition for children

I get it, we all live busy lifestyles and it’s really hard sometimes to think about proper nutrition for children, but it absolutely crucial for their health and overall development. As parents, one of the most important things we can do is to help our children learn healthy eating habits, and that starts with you as the parent.

Children need healthy food choices from all 3 food groups- vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and protein foods. Proper nutrition for children means providing 3 balanced meals a day and 1 to 3 snacks. Healthy snacks are just as important as the meals you choose for the rest of the day. The best foods you can provide for your child are whole, fresh and unprocessed foods- fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and meats- home cooked meals, not meals to go.

Children need a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, 2 of the most important ones are Vitamin D and Iron.


As the parent or caregiver, it’s your job to: 

  • Offer a balance and a variety of foods from all food groups at mealtimes and snacks.
  • Set regular meal and snack times that work for the entire family. Share mealtimes, eat with your children, and set the example for healthy eating habits to ensure the proper nutrition of children in your household.
  • Include your child in age appropriate food preparation and table setting.
  • Do not use dessert as a bribe. Serve healthy dessert choices such as yogurt or fruit cups.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants and show your children the importance of healthy eating as a family.

Proper nutrition for children is everyone’s job. Without it, we raise children who become obese and suffer from a variety of health conditions that could have been avoided had we learned proper nutrition for children early on.


Childhood Obesity

More than 1 billion people worldwide are considered obese- 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children. That’s staggering considering the entire world population of just over 7 billion. And the number continues to increase. It is estimated that by the year 2025, approximately 167 million people- both adults and children- will become less healthy because they are overweight or obese.

We are approaching a serious health crisis on this planet and now more than ever, nutrition for children is a growing concern.

Obesity is a disease that impacts nearly all body systems. It affects the heart, kidneys, liver, joints, and reproductive system. It leads to a wide range of noncommunicable disease (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and various forms of cancer, as well as mental health issues. And as we realized during the pandemic, obese people, including children, are 3 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

Good nutrition in pregnancy, followed by exclusive breastfeeding until age 6 months, and continued breastfeeding until 2 years is best for infants and young children.


Proper Nutrition for Children: Portion Control

Serving Size vs Portion Size:

A serving is a specific amount of food or drink. Nutrition facts on food labels provide serving sizes. However, portion sizes may not be the same.

A portion is the amount of food that ends up on the plate. Think of portion size as the actual amount of food you choose to eat at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. The portions you choose may be larger or smaller than the recommended serving sizes. If a portion size is larger, your child may be at an increased risk for gaining weight and becoming obese.

Proper Portion Sizes: Nutrition for Children

One of the reasons children may not be eating proper portion sizes is that they (and their parents) may not recognize what a reasonable portion looks like. What does 3 ounces of chicken look like?

We don’t need measuring cups or scales to measure proper portion sizes. We can visualize them using familiar objects that are similar in size to the recommended serving sizes. Having children match their food to a relevant object will help them learn proper portion size.




  • Bread
  • Dry cereal
  • Cooked cereal, rice or pasta
  • Pancake or waffle
  • Bagel, hamburger bun
  • Cornbread

Portion Size

  • 1 ounce or 1 regular slice
  • 1 ounce or 1 cup
  • 1 ounce or 1/2 cup
  • 1 small piece (6 inches)
  • 1/2 piece
  • 1 piece

About the Size of

  • DVD cover
  • Baseball
  • 1/2 baseball
  • DVD
  • Hockey puck
  • Bar of soap



  • Orange, apple, pear
  • Raisins

Portion Size

  • I small fruit
  • 1/4 cup

About the Size of:

  • Tennis ball
  • Golf ball



  • Baked potato
  • Vegetables, chopped or salad

Portion Size:

  • 1 medium
  • 1 cup

About the Size of:

  • Computer mouse
  • Baseball



  • Fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream

Portion Size:

  • 1 cup
  • 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese
  • 1/2 cup

About the Size of:

  • Baseball
  • 9 volt battery
  • 1/2 baseball



  • Lean beef or poultry
  • Grilled or baked fish
  • Peanut butter

Portion Size:

  • 3 ounces
  • 3 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons

About the Size of:

  • Deck of cards
  • Checkbook
  • Ping-pong ball



  • Margarine
  • Oil or salad dressing

Portion Size:

  • 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon

About the Size of:

  • Postage stamp
  • Cap on a 16 ounce water bottle

Sources of Vitamin D for Infants and Children

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is essential for the growth of strong bones in children. It also helps to prevent rickets. Rickets is soft bones in growing children. Children need vitamin D from shortly after birth. Children who are 12 months and younger need about 400 IU of Vitamin D daily. Children who are 12-24 months need about 600 IU of Vitamin D daily.

Fortified Cow’s Milk:

It’s not recommended for children younger than 12 months old. However, it’s a great source of Vitamin D for children older than 12 months old. Fortified cow’s milk may cause intestinal bleeding in children under 12 months as it has too many proteins and minerals. Their kidneys are unable to process it and it’s also missing the right amount of nutrients for an infant.

Breast Milk:

A baby cannot get all of its Vitamin D from breast milk alone. Therefore, a supplemental source is needed. Over the counter Vitamin D drops can help.

Infant Formula:

The standard amount of formula that an infant would consume is about 32 oz (896 g). This is sufficient to meet and infant’s Vitamin D needs. If the child is consuming less than that, they may need Vitamin D supplements.

Solid Foods:

Some good sources of Vitamin D for children who are consuming solid foods include:

  • Fish such as salmon or light canned tuna
  • Eggs
  • Vitamin D fortified foods like cow’s milk (for children 12 months and older), yogurt, cereals, and some juices.




Iron helps to transport oxygen through a child’s body and also supports a child’s learning ability. Consuming enough iron can prevent conditions such as anemia. Premature babies generally need more iron than full-term babies.


Sources of Iron for Infants and Children


Breast Milk:

From the age of 4 months, babies need more iron than breast milk can provide. Over the counter iron drops can help with this. The drop should be sufficient until the child is old enough to regularly consume more iron-rich foods


A child’s iron needs can be supplemented by standard infant formulas (especially if they have been fortified with iron) for the first 12 months of life.

Solid Foods:

From about the age of 6 months, babies can start to eat solid foods. These foods should contain one of 2 types of iron- heme and non-heme iron. 

Heme iron can be found in:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, goat, venison.
  • Fatty fish
  • Chicken, turkey
  • Eggs

Non-Heme iron can be found in:

  • Iron-fortified infant cereals
  • Tofu
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

To increase the absorption of non-heme iron, it should be consumed in conjunction with foods that are high in Vitamin C.


Proper Nutrition for Children and Brain Development

Nutrition for children plays an important factor that affects the growth and development of the brain and ultimately influences information processing and learning.

The formation of the brain begins during pregnancy, accelerates during early childhood and remains steady through the teen years. Nutrition plays a vital role in brain development development during pregnancy as well as through the first three years of a child’s life when the brain is going through the most rapid rate of growth and development.

It’s important for children to consume the proper amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats as well as vitamins and minerals, plus water to support healthy brain development.

Eating a healthy balanced diet daily and avoiding foods rich in sugars and processed ingredients can help provide proper nutrition for children and set them on the right track for health and wellness throughout life.

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You may also like these