How much fruit should you offer your child each day?
As a Paediatric Dietitian I frequently work with families worried about their child's fussy eating or growth. They are often concerned that their child may not be eating enough from one or more food groups. Fruit is one of those foods that I find toddlers and young children often love (because it is sweet) and after an in depth assessment of the child's usual diet I find that they are usually eating much more than what is recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
If a child is eating a variety of food groups including fruit that is great! But if a child is fussy at meals and they are eating a lot of fruit it may get in the way of them trying new foods or eating the meals parents would like them to eat.
So.....how much fruit should toddlers and young children be eating?
For 1-2 year olds around 1/2 a serve of fruit each day
For 2-3 year olds around 1 serve of fruit each day
For 4-8 year olds around 1.5 serves of fruit each day
From 9 years of age and for all adults we should be aiming to have 2 serves of fruit each day
So what is a SERVE of fruit anyway??
A serve of fruit is considered to be a 'medium' piece of fruit like an apple or banana, or 2 small fruits like kiwi/plums/apricots or otherwise a cup of berries/diced fruit/canned fruit.
All the photos below show what a 'serve' of fruit looks like.
Dried fruit and fruit juice also count towards this recommendation but ideally only offered to young children occasionally. This is because it's not good for their teeth, can contribute to sore tummies and can fill them up and make fussy eating worse. As you can see in the pictures below it doesn't take much dried fruit to make up a 'serve'. A small amount of dried fruit in cereal, on a platter at snacks or in a meal can be good options.
If you consider an 18 month old toddler for example - the fruit they eat can add up quite quickly in a day - half a banana with breakfast, a box of sultanas (which are usually more than a serve) as a snack, some more fruit after dinner. Very quickly that fruit can add up to 2-3 serves in a day. For a toddler with a little tummy I find this usually means they are not eating enough from the other food groups (dairy/vegetables/breads & cereals/meat & alternatives) or that they are fussy at mealtimes.
So do you need to make sure your child sticks to the 'recommended serves' of fruit each day? No - think of it as a guide - if you have a 2-3 year old you know each day they should be having about a serve of fruit, but that might means some days they have none, another they have 2, another 1/2 a serve. It really is an guide and a tool to guide you to know what to offer to your child at meals and snacks.
The most important thing I talk to families about is the 'division of responsibility' in feeding. That is:
It is the parent's job to decide the WHAT, WHEN and WHERE of feeding
It's your job to offer a variety of family foods eat day (including fruit) and eat as a family.
It is the child's job to decide HOW MUCH and IF they eat that that meal/snack.
It's your child's job to decide how much to eat of what you offer - trust them to decide when they have had enough.
If you are concerned about your child's fussy eating, their growth or are having stressful mealtimes at home get in touch with Kathleen for individual advice and support.
Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant – Healthy Start Nutrition
This website and information on this blog post is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant or intended to replace Dietetic assessment/ management or medical care for a child. It is recommended that you discuss any concerns or questions you might have about your child’s feeding/nutrition with Kathleen individually and develop an individualised plan specifically for your child.
About the author of this blog post
Kathleen Halliday is a Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant with extensive experience working with children and their families – especially around fussy eating, stressful mealtimes, growth concerns and nutritional management of many medical conditions.
Healthy Start Nutrition is a private practice based in Melbourne, Victoria.