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How much does my preschooler need?

Your preschooler's needs depend on how fast he or she is growing plus other individual factors. Each child's needs may differ from the average, and appetites can vary from day to day.

Use the table below as a general guide to how much your child should eat from each food group to meet their needs. Here’s how to get the right plan:

  1. Find the suggested calorie level based on your preschooler's age, sex, and physical activity level.
  2. Print a MyPlate Plan to help you stay on track.
  3. View the Meal and Snack Patterns for examples of food that can fit into your child’s plan. 
Age Sex Daily Activity MyPlate Plan
2 Boys & Girls Any level 1000 calories

Meal & snack ideas
3 Boys <30 min 1000 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
Girls <30 min 1000 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1200 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
4 Boys <30 min 1200 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1600 calories

Meal & snack ideas
Girls <30 min 1200 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
5 Boys <30 min 1200 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1600 calories

Meal & snack ideas
Girls <30 min 1200 calories

Meal & snack ideas
30-60 min 1400 calories

Meal & snack ideas
>60 min 1600 calories

Meal & snack ideas
SOURCE: Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 2002. 
 

Tips:

  • Your preschooler may not eat the exact amounts suggested every day. Try to balance the amounts over a few days or a week.
  • Offer different foods from day to day. Encourage your child to choose from a variety of foods.
  • Serve foods in small portions at scheduled meals and snacks.
  • Choose healthy snacks for your preschooler.
  • Beverages count too! Make smart beverage choices.