Kids’ nutrition is very important as the nutrients they get are a big factor in their growth and development. We all know that kids should be getting a balanced diet, but what exactly does that mean?

The Straits Times, a newspaper in Singapore, published an infographic detailing how much children should be eating. According to the paper, “The dietary requirements differ slightly for school-going children and adolescents, based on their age range. In comparison, adults are advised to eat five to seven servings of brown rice and whole-meal bread, two servings each of fruit and vegetables, and two to three servings of meat and others.”

The guidelines specifically recommend brown rice and whole-meal bread instead of white rice and white bread. Brown, unrefined rice and bread are sources of good carbohydrates, which means they are slowly digested by the body. Their white counterparts tend to cause a spike in blood sugar and then a rapid dip. Kids get hyper from a surge of sugar then experience a consistent crash.

When it comes to meat, opt for those that are low in saturated fat, like poultry and fatty fish (salmon, for example, which is rich in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids). Vegetarian families should consult a nutritionist to ensure that children get the right balance and amount of protein from non-meat sources like tofu and beans. 

The newspaper’s guidelines state how many servings of each type of food your child should be consuming per day:

3 to 6 years old

At this age, the British Nutrition Foundation states, children “are growing rapidly and are active so their energy requirements are high relative to their body size.” Their needs include foods that promote growth and development, particularly those that are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. The important thing about this age is to start promoting healthy eating habits within the family, as preferences established early on are likely to affect habits and choices as they grow up.

The Straits Times’ guidelines:

Brown rice and whole-meal bread: 3 to 4 servings

Fruit: 1 serving

Vegetables: 1 serving

Meat and others (should include at least one serving of dairy and calcium-containing food): 2

7 to 12 years old

School-age children likewise need proper nutrition to support their growth and development and to supply them with energy. Plan your meals and make sure you pack a balanced lunch for your children when they go to school. Healthy eating should also go hand-in-hand with physical activity.

The Straits Times’ guidelines:

Brown rice and whole-meal bread: 5 to 6 servings

Fruit: 2 servings

Vegetables: 2 servings

Meat and others (should include at least one serving of dairy and calcium-containing food): 3 servings

13 to 18 years old

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, teenagers typically have high intakes of saturated fat, salt, and bad sugars. Make sure to provide them with healthy meals throughout the day—teenage girls in the U.K. have low intakes of some vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, iron, and calcium—and encourage 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

The Straits Times’ guidelines:

Brown rice and whole-meal bread: 6 to 7 servings

Fruit: 2 servings

Vegetables: 2 servings

Meat and others (should include at least one serving of dairy or calcium-containing food): 3 servings

What’s in a Serving?

The term “serving” can get confusing as it varies depending on the type of food. The Straits Times gives examples of one serving for each of the recommended food groups:

Brown rice and other starchy carbohydrates: half a bowl (100g) of rice, half a bowl of noodles (100g), two slices of bread, or 1 large potato (avoid deep frying!)

Fruit: a glass of pure fruit juice (this means no added sugars); a wedge of pineapple, watermelon, or papaya; a small apple, orange, or mango.

Vegetables: ¾ mug of cooked vegetables like broccoli, 150g of raw greens like lettuce

Meat and others: 1 palm-sized piece of fish or lean meat like chicken, 3 eggs (The Straits Times recommends eating no more than 4 egg yolks per week), 5 medium prawns, 2 small blocks of tofu, or 2 glasses of milk

You can mix and match the suggested foods above to meet your child’s nutritional requirements per day. Always go for good carbs over bad carbs, good protein over bad protein, and healthier cooking methods like baking and grilling.

Note that organic foods may be better for health, especially children’s health, as these are free of pesticides, fertilizers, and other potentially harmful chemicals. Check out Healthy Options, the largest organic food store in the Philippines, for organic fruits, vegetables, and meat.

By paying attention to your child’s health and nutrition, you are helping them max out their growth potential and are also equipping them with healthy habits that can keep them from running into health issues when they get older.