• Nutritional values for your 4-8 year old childThe years four through eight seems like a long time to need a fairly even supply of nutrients.  Keep in mind that your child is growing steadily at this point, not as rapidly as they did as toddlers.  Growth spurts will happen during this time and are almost always accompanied by the words, "I'm hungry."  When you hear this, expect buy new kid's clothes soon!

Dietary Guidelines for Your Four to Eight Year Old

The USDA's Food Pyramid for kids reaches up to year six.  Until then, you can work off the following guidelines:

  • Grain Group = 6 Servings
  • Vegetable Group = 3 Servings
  • Fruit Group = 2 Servings
  • Milk Group = 2 Servings
  • Meat Group = 2 Servings
  • Fats & Sweets = Eat Less![1695]

As meals become more substantial and snack time becomes more essential, you will need to start working with the adult serving requirements:

  • Grain Group = 6-11 Servings
  • Vegetable Group = 3-5 Servings
  • Fruit Group = 2-4 Servings
  • Milk Group = 2-3 Servings
  • Meat Group = 2-3 Servings
  • Fats & Sweets = Use Sparingly[1708]

While you should always try to limit the number of sweets  and greasy food you give your child, keep in mind your child does need a supply of good fat in their diet as this gives essential vitamins as well as the medium to long-term energy which children need for growth.  You can see how much your fat your child realistically needs, by looking at the calorie counting values below.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your four to eight year old needs the following daily[1696]:

  • Calories: 1,200 to 1,800 for a girl, or 1,200 to 2,000 for a boy, depending on growth and activity level.
  • Protein: 10 to 30 percent of daily calories (30 to 90 grams for 1,200 daily calories).
  • Carbohydrates: 45 to 65 percent of daily calories (135 to 195 grams for 1,200 daily calories).
  • Total fat: 25 to 35 percent of daily calories (33 to 47 grams for 1,200 daily calories).
  • Sodium: 1,200 milligrams a day
  • Fiber: 17 to 25  grams a day for a girl, or 17 to 28 for a boy grams a day, depending on daily calories and activity level.
  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams a day.
  • Vitamin D: 600 international units a day.  

One of the difficulties of using the calorie counting system is that not all nutrition analyzing software accounts for calcium and vitamin D.  As long as your toddler is drinking plenty of full-cream milk, this is generally not something to worry about.  Also, as long as your child is getting a balanced food intake and are not following any special diets, such as a vegan diet, then rest assured your child is also receiving adequate amounts of iron, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and the vitamin B group.

Whether you are looking to use the Food Pyramid System or the Calorie Counting System, you can find more information on portion sizes and the key foods that contain each nutrient on this article, Children's Nutrition: An Overview.

Below are a couple of quick recipes with their nutritional breakdown according to the calorie counting method.  Nutritional analysis for these recipes was done using BigOven software.  

Recipes for Your ChildMuffin Recipe in Children's NutritionCredit: jeltovski @ morgueFile

Banana Muffins

Ingredients for 12 muffins:

  • 3 large Bananas 
  • 3/4 cup Sugar 
  • 1 large Egg 
  • 1 teaspoon Baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt 
  • 1 1/2 cup All purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup Melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mash bananas. Add sugar and slightly beaten egg and mix well, then add the melted butter. Make a well in the middle and add the dry ingredients.  Ladle mixture into a greased muffin tin.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 2
  • Carbohydrates: 21
  • Total fat: 6
  • Sodium: 302
  • Fiber: 1

Mini Pizzas

Ingredients for 6-12 servings (nutrition based on 12 smaller servings):

  • 6 each English muffins 
  • 1 cup Spaghetti sauce 
  • 8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 6 slices Bacon, chopped
  • 6 rings Pineapple, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Split the english muffins in half and place them on baking sheet.  Spread spaghetti sauce on the english muffins.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then top with bacon and pineapple pieces.  Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 10 minutes, and the cheese is melted to your child's preference.

  • Calories: 241
  • Protein: 8
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Total fat: 16
  • Sodium: 427
  • Fiber: 1

Ham and Potato Salad

Ingredients for 6-10 servings (nutrition based on 10 servings):

  • 1 pound Potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup Peas 
  • 2/3 cup Yoghurt 
  • 2 cups Cooked ham, chopped

Cook potatoes, covered in boiling water to cover 10 minutes or until tender.   Be careful not to over-cook as this will impact the consistency of the end product.  Drain and set aside.  Cook frozen peas according to package directions; drain and add to cooled potatoes.  Add the yoghurt and chopped ham.    Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 9
  • Carbohydrates: 24
  • Total fat: 1
  • Sodium: 409
  • Fiber: 4

Mac & CheeseChildren's Nutrition: Grating CheeseCredit: seemann @ morgueFile

Ingredients for 12 servings:

  • 7 ounce Elbow macaroni, cooked (al dente) and drained
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Flour 
  • 1 teaspoon Dry mustard 
  • 1 teaspoon Salt 
  • 2 1/2 cups milk 
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour and salt and cook for about 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly (it should coat the spoon). Remove the milk mixture from the heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the drained macaroni and then turn into the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

  • Calories: 188
  • Protein: 8
  • Carbohydrates: 15
  • Total fat: 11
  • Sodium: 361
  • Fiber: 1

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients for 24 cookies:

  • 1/2 cup Butter 
  • 1 cups Sugar 
  • 1 large Egg 
  • 2 1/2 cup Canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup Flour 
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder 
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg 
  • 6 teaspoon Salt 
  • 12 ounces Chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter & sugar, then add in egg, pumpkin and vanilla; beat well. Stir dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture; add chocolate chips.  Place on greased cookie sheet, bake for 13-14 minutes (lightly press finger into cookies to see if they are done; it should come pack up slightly).

  • Calories: 294
  • Protein: 5
  • Carbohydrates: 40
  • Total fat: 12
  • Sodium: 181
  • Fiber: 3

For specific guidelines relevant to other ages and an overview of both nutrition models discussed here, have a look at these articles:

And for more information on adapting your favorite recipes for your kids, have a look at:

Information provided in this article has come from different sources, including web resources such as the Mayo Clinic and books focusing on children's recipes and nutrition.  While much of the data has been researched by nutritionists, some of it is contradictory.  The author of this article is not a pediatrician or a nutritionist and recommends that you contact a registered practitioner should you have concerns with your child's health.