Is your child eating enough?

What do you do when your child won't eat? Many parents worry about their child's eating habits. Phrases such as "my child is having a hard time eating, what can I do?", "He may have a vitamin deficiency!" "Why does my child eat less than other children?" these are common questions at the pediatrician's office. But, is there any reason to worry about that?

The possibility is there, but there usually there is not a problem 

All children have instincts about how much food they need to eat to grow, and parents have the daily challenge of finding healthy foods that kids will eat. 

Infants should receive adequate, varied and nutritious food for healthy development. So, should parents keep an eye on how much food their child actually eats throughout the day, they may be surprised how a tiny handful of those snacks add up.

Establishing a healthy diet is important to avoid eating disorders later in life. 

But trying to provide healthy food for children can be a challenge. 

Refusing new foods is a normal stage of a child's development so it's important to introduce “thick” foods and new textures as soon as possible and avoid unhealthy snacks.

Normal signs that a child's diet is changing are: eating smaller amounts at each meal, more a day and less the next, only one meal a day, etc.

Some hints about your child's diet 

If you are wondering about your child's nutritional requirements, here you can find some advice on your child's nutritional needs. However, if you need more information or you suspect that your child may have an eating disorder, ask your pediatrician.

Nutrition for children: Guide to Balanced Nutrition

Nutrition for children is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. 

However, children need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages. 

The Guidelines for Balanced Nutrition in Indonesia consist of the following suggestions that toddlers should follow: 

  • Eat a variety of foods. 
  • Consume food to provide sufficient energy. 


Energy Needs (Kcal/day)
Age (years) Boys Girls Girls
2 - 3 1000 1000
4 - 8 1400 1200
9 - 13 1800 1600
14 - 18 2200 1800

* kcal/day = kilocalories per day. In this case, calories are an international measure of the body's energy requirements.


  • Get about half of the total energy from foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as rice, whole grains, beans, vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Get no more than a quarter of its energy from fats or oils. 
  • Use only iodized salt. 
  • Consume foods rich in iron. 
  • Breakfast is important, do not skip it. 
  • Drink enough water. 
  • Practice regular physical activity.

Recommended Nutritional Intake

So, what is the best formula for optimal growth and development in your child? Check out these nutrition basics for kids.

Gender Protein (ounces) Fruit (cup) Vegetables (cup) Grains (ounces) Milk (cup)
2 to 3 years old          

Boy and Girls

2-4 1-1,5 1-1,5 3-5 2
4 to 8 years old          
Boy 3-5,5 1-2 1,5-2,5 4-6 2,5
Girl 3-5 1-1,5 1,5-2,5 4-6 2,5
Ages 9 to 13 years old          
Boy 5-6,5 1,5-2 2-3,5 5-9 3
Girl 4-64 1,5-2 1,5-3 5-7 3
Ages 14 to 18 years old          
Boy 5-6,5 1,5-2 2,5-3 6-8 3
Girl 5,5-5,7 2-2,5 2,5-4 6-10 3

Serving, an easy way to understand your child's nutritional needs.

The serving size in nutrition is a specific amount that can help parents form healthy habits in their young children.

For example, although it is recommended for children to consume between 2-3 milk servings per day, they can meet this requirement by consuming 1 glass of milk at breakfast, 1 yogurt as a morning snack and 2 slices of cheese with lunch.

  2-6 years old 7-12 years old 13-16 years old Suggestion
Milk (2-3 serving per day)        
Milk ½ cup 1 cup 1 cup  
Yoghurt 1/3 cup and 1/2 to 4 years 1 cup 1 cup  
Meat and other protein (2 servings per day)        
Lean meat, seafood, poultry, tofu 1 ounce 2-3 ounces 1 ½ ounces    
Cooked beans ¼ cup to 1/3 cup up to 4 years old ½ cup 1 cup Various choices every week; aim to make 2 fish/seafood dishes for healthy omega-3 fatty acids
Egg ½ to1 egg for up to 4 years 1 to 2 eggs 1 ounce  
Wheat/Grains (6-11 servings per day)        
Bread ½ slice 1 slice 1 slice  
Cereals, rice, pasta or cooked tubers ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup Choose whole grains half the time. For example: whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.
Dry cereal 1/3 cup ¾ cup ¾ cup  
Fruits (2-3 portions per day) 2-3 fruits 4-5 fruits 4-5 fruits  
Cooked, frozen or canned ¼ cup 1/3 cup 1 cup  
Fresh fruit slices ½ piece 1 piece 2 pieces  
Jus 100% ¼ cup 1/3 cup 1 cup* *take preferably fruits, not juice, (unsweetened)
Vegetables (2-3 portions per day)        
Cooked ¼ cup ½ cup 2 to 3 cups Choose different colors and types of vegetables evey day
Salad ½ cup (up to 4 years) 1 cup 1 cup  

Keep it simple with nutrition plates.

To complement the previous information, Indonesia has introduced a food plate, which can help you when you have to prepare food for children.




Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) [webpage]*. Geneve; FAO; 2015 [2018: access on 21th of August 2018]. Food-Based Dietary Guidelines – Indonesia [1]. Available on:

Florentino RF, Tee ES, Hardinsyah R et al,. Food-Based Dietary Guidelines of Southeast Asian Countries: Part 2 – Analysis of Pictorial Food Guides. Mal J Nutr; 2016: 22 (Suplement): S49-S65.

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