The nutritional requirements, feeding development, and dietary guidelines for toddlers (12 to 24 months), preschool, and school-age children will be discussed here. Nutritional needs of infants are discussed separately. (See "Introducing solid foods and vitamin and mineral supplementation during infancy".)
Energy and nutrient requirements for children vary depending upon age, sex, and activity level (table 1). ChooseMyPlate is an interactive Web site that provides individual dietary guidance according to these parameters. (See 'Resources' below.)
Energy intake is influenced by the number of meals and snacks that are eaten during the day, the energy density of foods consumed, and portion size. Children generally can self-regulate energy intake [1,2]. However, self-regulation may be overridden if eating behaviors are driven by factors other than hunger and fullness (eg, coercive feeding, restriction of intake, environmental cues to eat) [3,4]. Parents should provide a range of nutritious foods for meals and snacks, but children should be allowed to decide how much, if any, they eat . Parents must be cognizant that peers and others outside the family greatly influence food choices of school-age children and adolescents. Body image concerns and societal attitudes may affect the energy intake and nutritional status of older children. (See 'Eating environment' below.)
Energy — Energy is provided through three primary macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Protein — Protein should comprise 6 to 20 percent of total energy intake for children one to three years of age, and 10 to 30 percent of total energy intake for children 4 to 18 years of age [6,7].