Healthy Kids Meal Wheel
Developed by Chef Ann Cooper and nutritionist Hailey London, RD.
Looking for fresh ways for your students to get their 4 to 9 servings of fruits and
veggies per day? Use our fun AND functional Healthy Kids Meal Wheel to teach
children about healthy eating and positive life-long wellness choices. The Lunch
Boxâ€™s Meal Wheel is downloadable in both English and Spanish and includes
serving sizes and the number of recommended portions for various age groups.
- Children ages 6-9 should aim for 4-7 servings daily
- Children ages 10-14 should aim for 5-8 servings daily
- Teens ages 14-18 should aim for 6-9 servings daily
A serving is 1 slice of bread (small slice) or 1/2 bagel the size of a hockey puck. If a regular bagel from a bagel store, 1/2 bagel is two servings of grains.
1/2 cup cooked rice equals a cupcake wrapper.
1/2 cup pasta.
1 cup of whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, etc. the size of your fist.
Whole grains include, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread/tortillas/pitas, whole grains like quinoa, millet, bulgur, buckwheat and barely, whole grain cereals (look for fiber higher than 2 grams), whole wheat pasta and other whole grain breads. Refined grains, such as white flour, white pasta and white rice should be limited to 3-4 times a week.
- 4-9 servings daily
1 cup raw vegetables is a serving size (size of your fist) or 1/2 cup cooked (about the size of a light bulb).
The more the better, just as long as smaller kids save room for protein and fats, as well. When in comes to vegetables, go for a variety of colors on your plate. Eating a variety of colored vegetables, such as green, orange, red, purple/blue, yellow or white, will ensure that children are getting all needed vitamins and minerals and a number of healthy protective factors from the plants coloring, as well. Fresh and in season is always best. Organic is ideal, but the first and most important step is to eat those veggies in any form. Some kids need to see or try a vegetable 8-9 times before they accept it, so don’t give up.
Watch out for the starchy vegetable. While potatoes and corn have some nutrients, they have much less than most vegetables and are more like carbohydrates nutritionally. If potatoes or corn is served, a grain is not needed. Leave skin on potatoes for extra nutrients.
- 3-5 servings daily
The serving size for fresh fruit is about the size of a tennis ball, if whole. Most apples are a bit over a serving and the serving size for most bananas is 1/2. For cut fruit, the serving size is 1/2 cup. For juice, 1/2 cup is a good size. Make sure juice is 100% juice; otherwise it most likely has a high proportion of sugar.
Again, color, color, color. Fresh is always best over canned and syruped. Aim for a variety of fruits. While fruit is extremely healthy, it still can not be eaten unlimitedly as vegetables, as they do contain significant calories and sugars.
- 2-3 servings daily
This group replaces what traditionally is the dairy group. There are many sources of calcium that come from plants that are even more absorbable than the calcium in dairy. These food include nuts, such as almonds, broccoli, dark leafy greens (add some lemon to help free up the calcium), tofu, soy milk, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds and molasses.
When getting calcium from dairy, the best source is organic yogurt, the next best is low-fat organic milk and other low fat organic dairy products. One organic switch that is really important to make is to organic milk. Milk carries a lot of toxins and residues of conventionally raised cows, if nothing else in your house is organic, but milk, you are still doing your family a great service. If you must eat dairy, please choose organic.
The serving size of calcium rich foods varies based on the amount of calcium in the food.
For a serving of Calcium, try:
- 1 cup of beans: soy, white, navy, black, french, refried, winged and great northern have the most calcium.
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup dried figs
- 3 oz canned salmon
- 6 sardines (canned)
- 1 cup amaranth (ancient grain)
- 1/2 cup dark leafy green vegetables, cooked (collards, kale, spinach, escarole, beet greens, etc.)
- 1/2 cup tofu
- 1 cup lowfat milk or soy milk
- 1 cup lowfat yogurt
- 1 1/2 oz low fat cheese.
Note children under 1 year of age should never be given cow's milk. If you chose to feed a child cow's milk (not recommended) after 1 years of age, make sure it is whole or 2% fat.
- 2-3 servings daily
Healthy protein sources include nuts, beans, tofu, fish (wild is better than farm raised), eggs, chicken, turkey, lean pork, lamb. Be aware that a portion of protein is quite small. 2-3 ounces for meat and 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 1/3 cup of nuts or one egg counts as one ounce of meat.
- 3-4 servings daily
Fats from plant sources are very important to the growth and development of children's bodies. Limit animal fats, which contain saturated fat and cholesterol. Limit Transfatty acids that come from food that is hydrogenated. Check food labels and avoid food with the word hydrogenated in the ingredients.
Include oils such as olive, safflower, sesame, flax and canola. A serving of these oils is 1 teaspoon. Note. Flax oil should not be used for cooking or heated.
Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts. A serving of these nuts for healthy fat is a handful, or a bit less than 1/2 cup, 1 Tablespoon peanut, almond or cashew butter.
Legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, garbanzos, soy beans, tofu and soy products. A serving of these beans for healthy fats is 1 cup cooked.
Note: If consuming beans and nuts for healthy fats, you will also be getting a serving of calcium with these foods, as well.
- 2-3 servings per week
Red meat was separated out from the proteins, not to encourage you to eat it, but to set it apart from the rest, as it should not be eaten every day. In this category would also be bacon, ham, sausage, salami, bologna and hot dogs (unless 100% beef, turkey or vegetarian and low fat). These meats contain a large proportion of saturated fat and should be eaten in moderation for heart health.
Added Sugars & Fats
- To be eaten rarely
Much of today’s obesity crisis stems from a lack of exercise and heavy eating of food of minimal nutrition value. Foods with a large amount of added sugars, such as candy, soda, cakes, pies and cookies, should be limited to treats. For very active kids, a daily treat, in moderation can be part of a healthy diet. Kids who are not as physically active should really limit high sugar foods and beverages to a few times per week.
Added fats, especially hydrogenated fats should be reduced significantly. The goal for hydrogenated fats or trans-fatty acids should be to eliminate them all together. This may require reading the ingredients on store bought food and avoiding hydrogenated margarines. Saturated fats, such as butter, should be limited to a few times per week. Added fats from healthy sources, such as olive oil, are an important part of a healthy diet and should be used daily.
The water glass on the plate represents the most important part of the healthy plate. Hydration, especially for growing kids is so important to total body and brain health. 8 glasses a day should be a goal for water drinking skeptics and a minimum for experienced water drinkers. Remember water is best. When drinks are high in sugar, the body can not get enough water from the beverage… so go for the water. Kids often drink more water if they are able to carry a water bottle at school.