How Many Fruits and Vegetables Do Kids Need?

You know the old saying.

An apple a day…is just about impossible to get my kid to eat.

Not the way you remembered it?  When my daughter was a toddler, I was sure nutrition would never be an issue for her.  She snacked on fruit and even vegetables often as we went about our normal daily activities.  Mid-morning might provide some time for strawberry slices, and nearly every afternoon included a banana, sometimes with peanut butter.  There was applesauce with her cereal in the morning, and carrot sticks were a staple every night.  Since she is now in school from 8:45 until 4:00, many of my old stand-by “sneak in some nutrition” times have disappeared. That does not, however, mean that I cannot help her receive the recommended servings of fruits and veggies each day.  Half the battle is, of course, knowing how many fruits and vegetables are kids really need each day.

Know your goal

Before we begin to worry as parents that we are not providing our kids with the nutrition that they need, it’s worth taking a moment to review the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and even more importantly, how much it really takes to meet those serving sizes.  Children between the ages of 2 and 3 should eat one cup of fruits and one cup of vegetables each day.  Kids between the ages of 4 and 8 should have 1 1/2 cups of each every day. Before you stomp your feet and pound your fists that parenting is already hard enough, think about what it really takes – not as much as you think – to meet those requirements.

1/2 Cup of Fruit

  • one small banana
  • one small apple
  • four large strawberries

1 Cup of Fruit

  • twelve to sixteen large grapes
  • one large orange

1/2 Cup of Vegetables

  • six broccoli florets
  • six baby carrots

1 Cup of Vegetables

  • one large sweet potato
  • two cups of leafy greens (yep, leafy greens only count half as much – who knew!?)

Right now I am able to provide portions of these recommended foods to my four year old son throughout his day with little planning or worry.  This morning, for example, he snacked on 1/2 cup of apple slices while we ran errands.  He also had several grapes with his sandwich at lunch as well as a small banana for afternoon snack.  While veggies or more difficult, hardly a day goes by that he doesn’t eat half a cup of baby carrots, and both of my kids have jumped on the salad-with-supper bandwagon.

But how can I get the same servings to my daughter who is gone for so much of the day? It’s certainly easy enough to place foods that travel and keep well into their lunch boxes.  Our favorites are apple slices, bananas, and raisins in those adorable little boxes.  Sometimes kids and moms fall for the cute packaging!  We also like to put a little ranch dressing in a small, reusable container and toss some baby carrots into our daughter’s lunch box.  How many?  Oh, about six – a half a cup and we’re one third of the way to our daily goal.

Now that you know how many fruits and vegetables your children need, what is your plan to slide a little nutrition into a busy day?

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  • Dana

    steamed green beans and edamame travel well and I find that cut up whole carrots tend to be sweeter than the baby carrots.

  • Parents and teachers interested in getting kids to develop a friendly attitude towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at a book called “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.” Bought in quantity for class use. Suitable for kids of all ages as it is two books in one – children first learn their alphabet through produce poems and then go on to hundreds of related activities. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney.

  • Thank you for the information about kid’s diet.The fruits and vegetables are important to kid’s health, but many parents will not know how to make a balanced diet for their kids.These informations are very useful.