Toddler calorie needs
Learn what is normal eating for children and how many calories they need.
As a parent, have you ever wondered if your child is eating properly and getting enough nutrition? Parents often have questions about what is considered “normal” eating. In today’s society we are grappling with many children becoming obese and developing chronic diseases like diabetes at very early age. So what does normal eating look like?
According to Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, normal eating has a number of different elements. Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are full. Normal eating is choosing foods you like and getting enough of it. It is thinking about eating nutritious foods but still allowing you some enjoyable foods. Normal eating is having three meals a day and for some, having two additional snacks. Normal eating is leaving some food on the plate, knowing you can eat some food tomorrow. It can be overeating at times and under eating other times. In other words, normal eating is being flexible. For children, eating can vary based upon how hungry they are, how the child feels that day, what the parent is doing that day and what food is available in the house.
Children should eat from all food groups as each group provides certain nutrition for various functions within the body. Eating from only one or two food groups will deprive the body of certain nutrients needed for your child’s body to develop and grow normally. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPramid for preschoolers recommends the average caloric intake for children two-years of age is 1,000 calories, for boys and girls. At age three both boys and girls need 1,200-1,600 calories. At age four, boys may need a few more calories than girls, ranging from 1,200-1,600 calories. Girls at age four need 1,200-1,400 calories. The needs of individual children differ according to their gender, age, body size and activity level. All children should try to be physically active for sixty minutes or more every day. If your child does not get this much activity, his or her caloric intake need would be toward the lower end of the caloric range.
How much food is 1,000 calories? The daily amount of food from each of the food groups for a 1,000 calorie diet includes three ounces of grains, one cup of vegetables, one cup of fruit, two cups of milk and two ounces of meat and/or beans. In comparison, a 1,400 calorie diet would include five ounces of grains, 1.5 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruit, two cups of milk and four ounces of meat and/or beans. Remember, if you have any questions about your child’s nutritional needs seek professional consultation through your physician or registered dietician. For programs in your area on healthy eating, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.