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question

How often should children eat each day?

Jodie Shield
Jodie Shield on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Healthcare Specialist
answer

Most children and teens need to eat every three to four hours throughout the day. This translates into the following:

  • Younger kids need to eat three meals and at least two snacks a day.
  • Older kids need to eat three meals and at least one snack a day (they may need two snacks if they’re going through a growth spurt or if they are very physically active).
Parents and caregivers need to offer planned meals and snacks consistently throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about one to two hours before the next meal begins. Postponing snacks until a few hours after a meal helps prevent kids from refusing food at a meal and then begging for more food as a “snack” just after the meal ends. On the other hand, putting a stop to snacking immediately before meals encourages a healthy appetite at mealtimes. Above all, remember the bottom line: if snacks are planned, coordinated with meals, and served consistently at regularly scheduled times, kids are more likely to be a healthy weight.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.