Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Ages & Stages

Monitoring What Your Child Eats

In general, it is the parents' job to monitor what their child eats, while the child is in the best position to decide how much to eat. Normally, healthy and active children's bodies do a good job of "asking" for just the right amount of food, al­though their minds may lead them astray when choosing which foods to eat.

You can easily overestimate the amount of food your child actually needs, especially during the younger years of middle childhood. Youngsters of this age do not need adult-sized servings of food. However, if you are unaware of this, you might place almost as much food on your child's plate as on your own. As a result, your child must choose between being criticized for leaving food on his plate, or for overeating and running the risk of obesity.

Weighing your children occasionally is one way for you to monitor your youngsters' nutrition. There is rarely a reason for you to count calories for your children, since most youngsters control their intake quite well. As the middle years progress, children's total energy needs will increase and thus their food intake will rise, especially as they approach puberty. Between ages seven and ten, both boys and girls consume about 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day, although caloric needs obviously vary considerably even under normal circumstances. Most girls experience a significant increase in their growth rate between ages ten and twelve and will take in about 200 calories more each day, while boys go through their growth spurt about two years later and in­crease their food intake by nearly 500 calories a day. During this time of rapid growth, they will probably require more total calories and nutrients than at any other period in their lives—from calcium to encourage bone growth, to protein to build body tissue.

At most ages boys require more calories than girls, primarily because of their larger body size. But appetites can vary, even from day to day, depend­ing on factors like activity levels. A child who spends the afternoon doing homework, for example, may have fewer caloric needs than one who plays outdoors after school. Every child's caloric needs are different.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us