An age guide of what your kids should be eating. Pexels

Feeding children can be a roller-coaster ride. Some days, children cruise along, eating most of what you serve. 

Then without warning, they take a dive and consume very little. 

This lasts just as long as you can cope, then they rise through a growth spurt to empty the refrigerator daily, only to plateau before they prepare for another dive.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Toddlers are on the go a lot more than babies, yet, pound for pound, they actually need fewer calories. According to the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, a day in the life of a toddler should look something like this:

  • 2 servings of fruit
  • 3 servings of vegetables
  • 6 servings of whole grains
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy (if your child doesn't eat dairy, substitute calcium-rich beans, legumes and greens)
  • 2 servings/140 g of protein (eggs, beans, chicken, fish, meat)

Toddlers actually need fewer calories. Pexels
Children ages 7 to 12 should strive to eat the following in a day

  • 3 servings of fruit
  • 4 servings of vegetables
  • 9 servings of whole grains
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy or calcium-rich substitute
  • 2 servings/170 g of protein

Teens

Parents should limit sugar at home as teens are probably getting enough elsewhere, and keep healthful food accessible so kids can grab it as they go. Though it's a challenge, this is an especially important time to prioritize family dinner, both for the nutrition and for the conversations.

Teen girls should follow the guidelines for school-age children while teen boys, especially active ones, should strive to eat the following in a day:

  • 4 servings of fruit
  • 5 servings of vegetables
  • 11 servings of whole grains
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy or calcium-rich substitute
  • 3 servings/200 g of protein

Casey Seidenberg is a co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company, and author of “The Super Food Cards,” a collection of healthful recipes and advice.

* The Washington Post