How often should children eat each day?

Jessica Gascoigne, MS, RDN
Nutrition & Dietetics
It depends on the family and the child. Kids often need three solid meals a day, plus one to three snacks depending on their energy level and activity. Kids are calorie burners. They need a lot of energy to grow well. Too many calories without activity is what leads to excessive weight gain. I would say kids need to eat every three to five hours.  Pay attention to your child’s hunger cues, energy and growth.

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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Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

In a world of fast food, supersized sodas, and televised temptations, this guide shows how to buck the obesity trend currently in the national spotlight—and have fun doing it. Using a family...

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Healthy Eating For Children & Teens

Healthy Eating For Children & Teens

Nutrition is important for healthy child development. Encourage healthy eating by teaching your child or teen correct portion sizes, healthy snacks and the importance of the five food groups. Avoid giving your child food that is h...

igh in calories, saturated fats and added salt and sugar. Find out if your child needs vitamins or supplements. While some weight fluctuation is normal, it could point to an eating disorder ir your child becomes overweight or underweight. Involve your child in preparing healthy recipes for the whole family. Learn more about healthy eating and healthy living for your child with expert advice from Sharecare.
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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.