Nutrition for Children

This article is for children above 2 years of age. For less than 2 years of age, see the article on weaning. You may also want to see articles on adult nutrition and old-age nutrition.


Children at this age can have the same food as that prepared for the rest of the family. They should have three meals a day and nutritious snack twice daily, between the meals.
Basic guidelines for nutrition are as follows:
  • Adequate Calories as per age
    • 3 yr old child requires One-third of adult’s calorie-requirements
    • 6 yr old needs about half the adult calories
    • 10 yr old – three-quarters of adult calorie
    • Teenagers have the same calorie-requirement as adults
    • Adult requirement is around 2400 calories per day
  • Right proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrates
    • One-tenth of intake should be proteins
    • One-third can be fat
    • And remaining carbohydrates
  • Roughly 50% of a meal should be cereals. 40% should be vegetables & fruits. Remaining should be sweets and fats.

  • Vegetable & fruit intake for 6 yr old child should be more than 200gms. This is half of 400gms requirements for adult – as noted for calorie-requirement above. Similarly, 10 yr old would need 300gms of veggies & fruits. Of the “vegetables and fruits” quantity, two-thirds should be vegetables and a third should be fruits.
  • Daily consumption of fat/oil should 10ml, 15-20ml and 25-30ml for 3 yrs, 6 yrs and 10 yrs of age, respectively. Refer here for types of fat.
  • Daily sugar consumption (including sweets, chocolates etc.) should be 10gms, 15-20gms and 20-25gms for 3 yrs, 6 yrs and 10 yrs of age, respectively.
  • Protein requirement is roughly 1gm per-kg of body weight.
    • Ideal weight of 2 yr old child is 11-12 kgs.
    • 18kg for 5yr old.
    • 28kgs for 10 yr old child.


Breakfast is most important meal but school-going kids may not have time for a heavy breakfast. Energy-dense & wholesome foods like dry-fruits (walnuts, almonds, dates, raisins, cashews), eggs, oats, fortified milk are highly recommended.

Lunch-box can have rice-pulav or poori/parathas/chapatis accompanied with curd or vegetables, thick pulses etc. Adequate amount of water must be taken throughout the day.

Dinner should be a balanced meal with rice/pulav, curd/raita, salads/sprouts, pulses, vegetables, chapatis, fruits, desserts, etc. Early dinner is good. Milk before sleeping is also good.


It is important to cultivate a healthy snacking-habit in children. Fast-foods and deep-fried snacks should be limited, maximum once in a week. Dry-fruits and fruits along with milk are ideal for snacks. Occasionally, sandwiches with cheese/egg/peanut-butter/jam etc. Also, cornflakes, etc.

Avoid sugary drinks like soft-drinks. Fruit juices are better. Whole fruits are even better!
Avoid highly salty-snacks like chips, kurkure etc.

Pizza, burger etc. should be limited to once in 2 weeks.

Other things to remember

  • Brush teeth twice daily.
  • Vegetarian diet is better than non-vegetarian.
  • Home cooked food is always better than outside or fast food.
  • Good dietary habits go a long way towards making healthy and energetic adults.
  • Early to bed, early to rise! Ensure 8-12 hours of good sleep every night.
  • Encourage regular physical activity.
  • Discourage deep-fried foods, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, cookies, pastries, pizza, burgers, fries and other fast-foods.
  • Periodic health check-up including eye-examination.
  • Track the growth of your child – height and weight – using the mTatva app.
  • Keep track of your child’s immunization schedule.
  • Ensure good personal-hygiene and good care of skin, hair and nails.
  • Ensure correct posture while reading and writing.

Protein & Calorie Content of Common Food Items

Food Item Proteins (gms) Calories (kCal, or “calories”)
One cup cooked rice 3.5 200
One cup cooked daal (pulses) 6 100
One chapatti 3.5 100
One Idli 3 70
250ml Milk w/o sugar 10 200
100gms Curd 4 100
1 Egg (boiled) 6 70
50gm fish/meat 12 175
1 Slice of Bread 3 80
One cup vegetables Nil 150
One spoon oil (5ml) Nil 45
One teaspoon sugar (5gm) Nil 20