Youth Nutrition Guidelines

Healthy Rowan advocates for healthy eating for Youth.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people aged 2 years or older follow a healthy eating pattern that includes the following:

A variety of fruits and vegetables

Whole grains

Fat-free and low-fat dairy products

A variety of protein foods

Oils

These guidelines also recommend that individuals limit calories from solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids) and added sugars, and reduce sodium intake.2 Sadly, most kids to not meet these guidelines.

What are the benefits?

Healthy eating can help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, consume important nutrients, and reduce the risk of developing health and chronic disease conditions.

Eating behaviors of young people:

Between 2001 and 2010, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among children and adolescents decreased, but still accounts for 10% of total calories.

Between 2003 and 2010, total fruit intake and whole fruit intake among children and adolescents increased. However, most youth still do not meet fruit and vegetable recommendations.

Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents age 2–18 years—affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.4  Most youth do not consume the recommended amount of total water.

Water is one of the body’s most essential nutrients. People may survive six weeks without any food, but they couldn’t live more than a week or so without water. That’s because water is the cornerstone for all body functions. Water helps maintain blood volume, and it helps lubricate joints and body tissues such as those in the mouth, eyes and nose. And, water is truly a liquid asset for a healthy weight — it’s sugar-free, caffeine-free and calorie-free.

How much water do children need?

The daily amount of water that a child needs depends on factors such as age, weight and gender. Air temperature, humidity, activity level and a person’s overall health affect daily water requirements, too. These recommendations are set for generally healthy kids living in temperate climates; therefore, they might not be perfect for your child or teen.

The amount of water that your child or teen needs each day might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the recommendations in the chart are for total water, which includes water from all sources: drinking water, other beverages and food. Notice that fruits and vegetables have a much higher water content than other solid foods. This high water content helps keep the calorie level of fruits and vegetables low while their nutrient level remains high — another perfectly great reason for kids to eat more from these food groups.

So how do you apply total water recommendations to your kid’s day? As a rule of thumb, to get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day and eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Age RangeGenderTotal Water
4 to 8 yearsGirls & Boys5
9 to 13 yearsGirls7
Boys8
14 to 18 yearsGirls8
Boys11

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