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Harvard Commentaries
35320
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Food Groups with Serving Suggestions


May 29, 2011

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Food Groups with Serving Suggestions


Breads, Cereals, Grains and Pasta

Breads, cereals, grains and pasta consist largely of carbohydrates (special types of complex sugars), which are excellent sources of energy. Choose products made from whole grain, which contain more nutrients and fiber, rather than refined (more processed) products. For example, choose 100% whole-wheat bread instead of wheat bread or white bread. Also choose products that are low in sugar and salt. For example, serve graham crackers instead of doughnuts, and serve unsweetened cereals instead of sugar-coated cereals.

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FruitsFruits, excellent sources of vitamins (especially vitamin C), minerals and fiber, are favorites among children of all ages. Suggestions for toddlers include apples, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, oranges, grapefruits and strawberries. Whole grapes and cherries should not be given to toddlers because they are a choking hazard (see below). Preschool-age children also may enjoy cantaloupe and other melons, mango, kiwi, plums and dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes and raisins.Toddlers may not always chew their foods completely, and they sometimes get up and walk around the house with food in their mouths. To prevent choking, keep your child seated in a high chair or at the table while eating, cut the fruit into small pieces, and always remove the seeds. Small round pieces are especially dangerous because of the choking possibility, so cut grapes and cherries lengthwise in halves or quarters.

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VegetablesVegetables are excellent sources of vitamins (especially vitamins A and C), minerals and fiber. However, many children (and adults for that matter) do not eat the recommended number of servings of vegetables each day. To ensure that children do eat their vegetables, it is best for parents to set a good example and use creativity in preparing the vegetables. Vegetables can be served with sauces and dips, and blended into other foods (pizza, spaghetti sauce, casseroles).Suggestions for toddlers include sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, winter squash and potatoes. Before serving vegetables to toddlers, they should be well cooked because raw vegetables are hard to chew and are a choking hazard (see below). Preschool-age children also may enjoy cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, other greens, bell peppers, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, corn on the cob and asparagus.Toddlers may not always chew their foods completely, and they sometimes get up and walk around the house with food in their mouths. To prevent choking, keep your child seated in a high chair or at the table while eating. Do not serve raw vegetables to toddlers because they are hard to chew and may cause choking. Serve toddlers only cooked vegetables, cut into small pieces. Small round pieces are especially dangerous because of the choking possibility, so mash cooked peas and cut cooked carrots lengthwise in halves or quarters before serving. Do not give toddlers whole cherry tomatoes.

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DairyDairy products are excellent sources of calcium and protein. Milk also contains vitamin D, which is important for getting enough calcium into our bodies. Calcium can be found in nondairy products such as fortified soymilk, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, turnip greens) and calcium-fortified orange juice. If your child does not eat dairy products, speak with your doctor or a nutritionist to make sure that your child is getting enough of these nutrients in other ways.

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Meat, Poultry, Fish and EggsMeat, poultry, fish and eggs are all excellent sources of protein, which supplies the amino acids (building blocks) necessary for the growth, repair and maintenance of all parts of our bodies. These important amino acids can also be obtained by eating a variety of plant-based foods including grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and vegetables. For example, one of the best plant-based sources for amino acids is soybean (found in tofu, tempeh, nondairy cheeses and other products) because soy protein is considered nutritionally equivalent to the protein found in meat. Nuts usually are not recommended for children younger than 3 years old because of the danger of choking, but smooth peanut butter or other nut butters can be given after age 1. If your child does not eat any meat, poultry, fish or eggs, speak with your doctor or a nutritionist to make sure that your child is getting enough protein from plant-based foods.Last updated May 29, 2011

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Food Servings for 1 and 2 Years (6 Servings/Day) Servings for 3 and 4 Years (6 Servings/Day)
bread one-quarter to one-half slice one-half to 1 slice
cereal, dry one-quarter to one-third cup one-third to one-half cup
cereal, cooked one-quarter cup one-quarter to one-third cup
crackers 1 to 2 3 to 4
pasta one-quarter cup one-quarter to one-third cup
rice, brown or white one-quarter cup one-quarter to one-third cup
bagels one-quarter to one-half one-half to 1
English muffin one-quarter to one-half one-half to 1
Food Servings for 1 and 2 Years (2-3 Servings/Day) Servings for 3 and 4 Years (2-3 Servings/Day)
fresh fruit, cut up one-quarter to one-half piece (about one-quarter to one-half cup) one-half piece (about one-half cup)
canned or cooked fruit one-quarter to one-half cup one-quarter to one-half cup
dried fruit do not give one-quarter cup
fruit juice one-quarter cup (2 ounces) one-quarter to one-half cup (2 to 4 ounces)
Food Servings for 1 and 2 Years (2-3 Servings/Day) Servings for 3 and 4 Years (2-3 Servings/Day)
cooked vegetables 1 to 2 tablespoons 3 to 4 tablespoons (one-quarter cup)
raw vegetables do not give one-quarter to one-half cup
salad do not give one-quarter to one-half cup
Food Servings for 1 and 2 Years (2 servings/day) Servings for 3 and 4 Years (2 servings/day)
milk, whole 1 Year - one-half cup (4 ounces)
2 Years - do not give
do not give
milk, low fat or nonfat 1 Year - do not give
2 Years - one-half cup (4 ounces)
1 cup (8 ounces)
cheese, whole milk 1 Year - one-half ounce (1-inch cube)
2 Years - do not give
do not give
cheese, reduced fat 1 Year - do not give
2 Years - one-half to 1 ounce
1 ounce
yogurt, whole milk 1 Year - one-half cup (4 ounces)
2 Years - do not give
do not give
yogurt, low fat or nonfat 1 Year - do not give
2 Years - one-half to three-quarters cup (4 to 6 ounces)
three-quarters to 1 cup (6 to 8 ounces)
Food Servings for 1 and 2 Years (2 Servings/Day) Servings for 3 and 4 Years (2 Servings/Day)
beef and pork 1 ounce 1 to 2 ounces
poultry 1 ounce 1 to 2 ounces
ground meat 1 ounce 1 to 2 ounces
fish 1 ounce 1 to 2 ounces
tofu, regular (protein content varies with type) 4 ounces 4 to 8 ounces
cooked dry beans one-half cup one-half to 1 cup
eggs 1 1 to 2
peanut butter (smooth) 2 tablespoons (spread thinly on bread or crackers) 2 to 4 tablespoons
   
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