Fruit and Vegetable Servings for Children

Image for produce in schools articleAppropriate fruit and vegetable consumption is important for nutritional health and weight maintenance. Given the number of Americans who are either overweight or obese, it is all the more important to encourage children and adults to consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are a great low-calorie, low-fat source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and other beneficial nutrients. The table below highlights the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption for children who get less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. If a child gets more activity than this, they may need more of the types of foods.

Fruits

Gender Age Daily Recommendation
Boys and girls 2-3 years old 1 cup (about 229 grams)
Boys and girls 4-8 years old 1 to 1-½ cups (about 229-345 grams)
Boys and girls 9-13 years old 1-½ cups (about 345 grams)
Girls 14-18 years old 1-½ cups (about 345 grams)
Boys 14-18 years old 2 cups (about 459 grams)

Vegetables

Gender Age Daily Recommendation
Boys and girls 2-3 years old 1 cup (about 229 grams)
Boys and girls 4-8 years old 1-½ cup (about 345 grams)
Girls 9-13 years old 2 cups (about 459 grams)
Boys 9-13 years old 2-½ cups (about 575 grams)
Girls 14-18 years old 2-½ cups (about 575 grams)
Boys 14-18 years old 3 cups (about 690 grams)

Examples of One Cup of Fruits and Vegetables

Here are examples of what is equal to one cup of fruits and vegetable, according to the USDA's http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ website:

  • Fruit
    • 1 small apple
    • 1 cup diced melon or melon balls
    • ½ cup dried fruit
    • 1 large orange
    • 8 large strawberries
  • Vegetables
    • 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked leafy greens
    • 12 baby carrots
    • 1 cup chopped broccoli
    • 1 large tomato
    • 1 cup 100% vegetable juice

Getting Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The best way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is to set a good example. Here are a few more tips:

  • When preparing your child's meal, make sure that half of the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables.
  • Start early —Introduce good eating habits to toddlers by putting servings of fruits and vegetables on their plates at every meal. Even if they reject them at first, they may eventually taste them.
  • Add variety —Keep a nice variety of cut-up fresh vegetables and fruit available for snacks that are easy to grab and eat.
  • Go for a dip —Kids love to dip. Offer vegetables with a bit of low-fat ranch dip or peanut butter and serve fruit with vanilla yogurt mixed with a sprinkle of cinnamon or fruit-flavored yogurt for dipping.
  • Shop together —Take your kids shopping with you, and let them help pick the fruits and vegetables.
  • Plant a vegetable garden —Encourage children to help maintain and harvest a vegetable garden. Even if you live in the city, gardening in pots or other containers can be fun and productive, and many greens can be grown indoors during the winter.
  • Be fresh —Buy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
  • Make a smoothie —Try giving your kids a smoothie for a treat. Blend some yogurt, a banana, a handful of frozen berries, and a splash of 100% orange juice.
  • Make a trail mix —Use dried fruit, unsweetened cereal bits, and nuts (for older children only).
  • Consider camouflage —Put bits of carrot or zucchini into spaghetti sauce or muffins. Add berries and bananas to your weekend pancake recipe.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org
US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate
http://www.choosemyplate.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

References:

Nutrition (pediatric preventive care). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated December 26, 2016. Accessed February 2, 2017.
All about the vegetable group. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables. Updated July 26, 2016. Accessed February 2, 2017.
All about the fruit group. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit. Updated July 26, 2016. Accessed February 2, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 2/17/2015

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