Nutritional recommendations (1-4 years)

Consumption of food isn´t going to be even, some foods will be eaten more often than others.  If the gains in height and weight gain are correct, you needn´t worry further; always listen to and respect your child´s need for food. It´s counterproductive, and often leads to rejection, if parents or carers adopt a strict attitude towards children eating certain foods regularly.

Foods should be: adequate, sufficient, complete, varied and balanced.

Children with a sedentary lifestyle in this age group have a calorific requirement of 1,200 kilocalories for girls and up to 1,400 for boys.

At this stage of life, the child is going to become accustomed to eating snacks, almost unavoidably these days at school. Snacking should be limited, and should not meet a large part of the daily energy requirement. Only good quality products with a balanced nutritional content should be encouraged, such as cereals, dried fruit, fresh fruit, natural juices, etc.

A wide variety of different nutritious foods in different styles of presentation, flavours, colours and textures should be offered to guide the child´s tastes. Changing the foods offered frequently will help the child to choose foods of high nutritional quality, and avoid refusal of certain groups of food such as fruit, vegetables, fish, etc.

It isn´t necessary to restrict really desirable foods, as this might provoke even greater consumption, but their consumption should be moderated and occasional, helping the child to learn self-control of their calorific consumption.

Table to Show the Size of Servings for this Age Group

Age Carbohydrates Vegetables Fruits Low fat dairy Meat, fish, eggs Fats, oils and sugars
5-6 6-9 1-1.5 4-6 2-3 2-4 1
7-8 9-10 1.5-2.5 6-7 2-3 4-5 1


The recommended frequency and size of servings is as follows

At least 2 glasses of milk, or the equivalent, per day.

One serving of milk equals: 1 glass of milk, 2 yoghurts or 50g of fresh low fat cheese. It´s best to use half-fat or low fat products.

Less than 6 times a week, one serving equals 50g.

Ham, lean luncheon meat and sliced sausage should only be consumed weekly.

At least four times a week.

One serving equals 65g, and a normal meal would constitute 2 servings, or 130g

Up to 3 times a week.

One serving, 2 eggs.

Every day for lunch and dinner.

The following should be eaten daily in main meals: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes or cereals.

One serving of white or wholemeal bread equals 20g, 15g for toast, rice and pasta 15g.

2-4 times a week.

15g per serving, dry weight (lentils, chickpeas, white beans, peas).

Every day for lunch and dinner.

At least one serving of fresh vegetables (salad) should be eaten every day.

Depending on the vegetable, one serving is between 200-300g.

3 medium-sized pieces every day equals 6 servings.

One serving, depending on the fruit, is 50-100g.

Limit the quantity.

For occasional consumption only.

For occasional consumption only.

Moderate the quantity.

Virgin olive oil is especially recommended.

Desserts, soft drinks, snacks etc.

For occasional consumption only.


Proportions and Types of Foods During the Day


Most children of this age group have 3 main meals a day and 2 snacks.

The distribution should be:

  • Breakfast 25% of total calories
  • Lunch 30-35% of total calories
  • Afternoon Snack 15%
  • Dinner 25-30%



This is one of the main meals of the day, but despite this, some 10-15% of children begin the school day without having eaten breakfast and 20-30% eat too little for breakfast.

Breakfast should contribute at least 3 of the 5 groups of basic foods: dairy products, cereals and fresh fruit (preferably whole) or as fresh juice. A breakfast with an energetic value of less than 200 kcal is considered to be poor.

An adequate breakfast, in periods of growth or significant physical activity, is not met by eating one food mid-morning, such as a small sandwich or a piece of fruit or a dairy product.

The midday meal is the one which provides altogether more energy, protein and fat. A high percentage of children eat school meals (about 20%), and for this reason, school canteens, just as at home, should take into account the preparation, size or servings, and adjustment of macro and micro nutrients,  especially calcium, folates, zinc and iron.

The menu should comprise a starter based on vegetables or legumes, pasta or rice; a main course of lean meat, fish or eggs, and a dessert of, preferably, fruit or a dairy product.

Water should be drunk, and bread eaten as an accompaniment.

Baked goods should be avoided, as well as prepared foods and sauces. Meat should be prepared so as to facilitate easy chewing (meatballs, hamburgers, stew, etc.) and the presence of fish bones should be avoided.

The objectives of the school canteen should include:

  • preparation of menus in keeping with recommendations for energy nutrition, and macro and micronutrients.
  • provision of at least 1/3 of the energy requirement and 50% of the daily protein intake.
  • menus should be varied and include traditional and current dishes as well as local products.
  • attractive presentation of meals.
  • incorporation of new food technologies and observation of sanitary kitchen and dining room rules.
  • obligation to meet the purpose of introducing good dietetic, hygienic and social practices.

Depending on the child´s level of physical activity, the food eaten during the rest of the day can be supplemented at this meal with servings of dairy products, fruit, or carbohydrates in a small sandwich, etc. not forgetting water as an essential drink.

This should serve to balance the whole family´s diet, taking into account of what has been eaten during the rest of the day.

It should be lighter and simpler than lunch: salad, vegetables, purées, soups, and as a complement, fish, meat, or eggs, taking into account what hasn´t been eaten at midday.

A proper dinner also aids good sleep.



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