How Much Is Enough? Kids and Serving Sizes

We all keep hearing that too many children are overweight or obese. We know that we need to provide them with foods that are healthy. But exactly what are those foods and how much should our kids be eating? In this fast food, all-you-can eat and more world, I don’t remember really knowing what an appropriate serving size was for my children when they were young. I do remember worrying about whether or not they were eating enough. One of my friends used to chase her son around with his barely touched egg salad sandwich, begging him to finish it. I never got to that point, but I shared her concerns about food.

Tomorrow (Tues.) on KTUL News Channel 8’s Good Morning Oklahoma, I’m going to show some appropriate serving sizes for kids ages 4 to 8. I actually gathered up the food that a child that age should eat in a day, according to WebMD. What struck me as I put the food in containers was that the serving sizes were small, but there was quite a lot of variety and actually quite a lot of total food.

Maybe you should try doing this as a good visual exercise for how much and what kinds of food your young children should be eating. I consider myself a person who eats a healthy diet most of the time, but physicially laying out the food and the portions for an entire day for a 4- to 8-year-old helped me better visualize not only what kids should be eating, but what I should be eating — and how clearly snacks should be incorporated as part of the total diet, rather than tagged on as an afterthought of cookies, candy or chips. Children, especially, need nutritious snacks because they can’t eat as much food at one time as adults can. (I remember giving my kids steamed broccoli for a snack!) And if we cut out the processed foods, sugary and salty snacks, pastries and cookies, then not only will we be healthier, we’ll be modeling good eating habits for our kids.

Here are the guidelines for how much kids ages 4 – 8 years of age should eat:


4 servings per day. Whole grain is best.

Bread: (choose one) one serving size is 1 slice of bread, 1/2 English muffin, 1/2 bagel, or 1/2 to 1 tortilla; Cooked Cereal: 1/2 cup; Cold, Dry Cereal: 1 cup; Pasta, noodles, rice or grains: 1/2 cup.


4 to 8 servings per day. Choose mostly green or brightly colored vegetables. Limit starchy ones like potatoes to one serving a day.

1 serving size of veggies is 3 to 4 tablespoons (about the size of your child’s fist)


4 servings per day. Serve reduced-fat, low-fat or skim.

Milk: 1 serving is 1/2 to 3/4 cup; Cheese: one serving is 2-3 dice-sized cheese cubes or 1/2 to 1 slice packaged cheese; Yogurt: 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (4-6 oz)


2 servings per day

Meat, Fish, Poultry or Meat Substitute: 1 oz. is one serving (about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of an adult’s palm); Tofu or Tempeh: 1/2 cup; Egg: 1 egg; Beans or Peas: 4 tablespoons (about the size of your child’s fist); Nuts (includes peanut butter): 2 tablespoons


2 servings per day. Raw fruit is best.

Fruit: Choose 1: 1/2 to 1 small, raw fruit or canned 4-6 tablespoons (about the size of your child’s fist). choose fruit packed in water, juice or light syrup, not heavy; Fruit Juice: 4-6 oz. per day.

You can see that your child might have dry cereal with half a banana and 1/2 cup of milk for breakfast; the other half of the banana, cut and spread with peanut butter for a snack; a small whole wheat tortilla with chopped chicken, chopped carrots, chopped fresh spinach and shredded cheese rolled up for lunch; hummus dip with whole grain crackers and red pepper strips for a snack; homemade baked chicken “nuggets,’ 1/2 cup of milk, broccoli and a small serving of brown rice for dinner and maybe a little yogurt and fresh fruit for a snack and that’s an entire day’s worth of healthy food. And if you eat the same way (larger, adult servings, of course), you’ll be healthy, too!


Categories: Editor’s Blog