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A Balanced Diet For School-Age Children: Food Portion Control

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 15, 2023

A Balanced Diet For School-Age Children: Food Portion Control

For school-age children, eating is not just a way to get their fuel for the entire day – it’s also a social activity. Often, they will share meals with peers and even eat at their friend’s house. The fact that you will not always be there to monitor their diet makes it even more crucial to instill good food portion control habits in them. Here’s what a balanced diet for school-age children looks like.

The Healthy, Balanced Diet for School-Age Children

Basically, when you plan for your grade-schooler’s meals, you need to consider 5 food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods, and dairy.

  • Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost their overall health and immunity.
  • Grains serve as their primary energy source because they are rich in carbohydrates. Grains are also packed with fiber.
  • Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, also offer other nutrients like zinc and iron.
  • Dairy, on the other hand, is their primary source of calcium, which is essential for development of healthy bones.

Please note that school-age children need to have foods from all these food groups.

Additionally, having variety within each food group is also necessary: it ensures that your child is getting as many micronutrients they need for their optimum health.balanced diet for school age children

A Reminder When Reading Food Labels

Parents must know about food portion sizes for school-age children because they cannot fully rely on “serving sizes” found on food labels.

You see, a serving size is the standardized amount of food in packages. For instance, when you buy a pack of cookies, the label may say that 1 serving is equivalent to 2 pieces of cookies. Portion size is the amount of food that they actually eat at a given time; it can be more or less of the indicated serving size.

The tricky part in meal preparation is that the serving sizes in food labels don’t always match the recommended portion sizes for age (portion distortion). This means that your grade-schooler may be consuming more or less of certain foods if you rely entirely on nutritional labels alone.

balanced diet for school age children

The Food Portion Sizes for School-Age Children

For your school-age children to have a balanced diet, each serving of food should match their age group’s recommended portion size. Here’s a simple guide you can follow.


Grade-schoolers need about 2 to 3 servings of vegetables daily. The portion size for each serving should be about:

  • 1 cup of raw leafy veggies (size of a baseball)
  • ½ cup of other (chunky) vegetables, raw or cooked
  • ¾ cup of vegetable juice


A balanced diet for school-age children includes 2 to 3 servings of fruits daily. Each serving looks like this:

  • A small fresh fruit (size of a tennis ball)
  • ½ cup of sliced fruits
  • ¾ cup of fruit juice (choose unsweetened where possible)
  • Grains

    Grade-schoolers need approximately 6 to 11 servings of grains every day. As much as possible, choose the whole grain variety for them. The portion size for each serving of grains look like this:

    • 1 regular size of bread (size of a CD cover)
    • ½ cup of rice (size of ½ baseball)
    • 1 cup of cereals
    • 1 small piece of pancake

    Protein Foods

    To help build their muscles, a school-age child needs to eat 2 to 3 servings of protein foods. For portion size of each serving, refer to the examples below:

    • 1 piece of egg
    • ½ cup of cooked dried beans
    • 2 to 3 ounces (57 to 85 grams) of lean meat, poultry, fish, or tofu
    • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter


    School-age children still need milk and other dairy products as their source of calcium. Each day, they need to have 2 to 3 servings, with each serving amounting to:

    • 1 cup of milk or yogurt (choose low-fat and unsweetened where possible)
    • 1 ounce of cheese (28 grams)

    Besides these, a healthy balanced diet for school-age children also includes healthy fats, which they can get from nuts and seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and healthy oils used for cooking.

    As you instill food portion control in your kids, over time, they will be able to take it with them wherever they go-be it in the school or another house.

    Learn more about School-Age Children here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 15, 2023

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