Any parent with a picky eater knows that getting their little one to munch and crunch on healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and veggies can be a challenge. And if your child insists on chicken nuggets, fish-shaped crackers and apple juice, encouraging them to eat meals with an appropriate amount of each food type can feel impossible. But, before you give in to the pleas for processed foods, we are dishing up how to create the ideal, healthy plate for kids. Spoiler alert: it’s all about the nutrients. So, keep reading for the perfect plate proportions to promote healthy eating habits for kids. Ready? Let’s dig in! 


Kids need to consume a healthy proportion of both macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate food guide, a child’s plate should be made up of half fruits and veggies, with, ideally, a greater amount of veggies than fruits. The remaining half of the plate should be split roughly evenly between whole grains and healthy proteins. We recommend following this rule of thumb with meals throughout the day to provide the ideal ratio of macronutrients for your child. Focus on loading plates up with high nutrient dense foods like non-starchy vegetables and limiting low-nutrient foods like cookies and chips. 


Two of the biggest mysteries for parents are how to get kids to eat healthy and which vegetables kids will eat and actually enjoy! Our favorite trick is all about variety. Splitting the plate up into sections not only provides a variety of macronutrients, it also gives you the freedom to switch up meals each day to keep things colorful and interesting! By offering a wide selection, kids can start to develop a liking to different flavors and voice their preferences for healthy, whole foods. So, now that you know what the perfect plate looks like, let’s dive into how to choose foods in each category and how to get your child excited about biting into all kinds of new, nutritious things. 


When it comes to fruits and veggies, the key to infusing your little one’s diet with plenty of nutrients is to offer appropriate quantities in as colorful of a selection as possible! Each piece of produce is packed with different nutrients, so create variety by offering a wide selection for your child’s diet. Consider serving greens such as broccoli, asparagus, and spinach with other types of vegetables such as cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, and carrots. Offer high sugar content fruits like mangoes or starchy vegetables like potatoes in moderation. Another great tip is to try to serve food that is in season for fresher, more flavorful produce that will leave kids pleading for seconds. 


Eating enough protein is key for children to grow and develop properly. These foods not only help the body build muscle and tissue but also contain valuable micronutrients. While lean and unprocessed meats, fish, and eggs are popular healthy choices, there are also fantastic plant-based options. Beans, peas, legumes and seeds can be excellent sources of healthy protein. Dairy products such as cheese and yogurt can help you provide your little one with fat and protein at the same time. For omnivorous households, offering a variety of both plant and animal proteins can be a great way to include a range of macronutrients. 

Whole Grains

Whole grains contain dietary fiber and help keep bellies feeling full and happy! While kids sure do love bread and pasta, these popular foods can be made in a variety of different ways. Favorite products are often made with refined white flours or grains which have a greater effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than their whole grains counterparts. These more highly processed products often contain reduced levels of nutrients and, when offered too often, can deter the path to creating healthy eating habits for kids. So, when deciding which grains to feed your little one, aim to opt for the least processed products made with whole wheat, brown rice, oats, or quinoa, at least half of the time. 


Fats are important to help the body produce energy, absorb nutrients, and feel full. However, some fats are healthier than others. Saturated and trans fats, common in fried, highly processed, and junk foods are unhealthy and should be consumed in limited moderation. Instead, you can opt to serve whole foods such as avocados, eggs, and nuts to your little one to offer them healthy fats. It is also a great idea to use healthy plant based oils such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil when cooking or seasoning foods. Dairy is also a great way to include fats in your child’s diet and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. However, some dairy products such as butter, lard, cheese, and sweetened milks or yogurts should be consumed in moderation. 


Kids love color! So, take the opportunity to make a beautiful, healthy plate for kids by turning it into a rainbow, instead of a salty beige slop. Fruits and vegetables are not only nutritious but pleasing to the eye! Think bright orange sweet potatoes and vivid green avocados. Or what about the punchy red of a juicy tomato with cute microgreen leaves that look like salad for an itty bitty creature? Offering variety and color in your child’s diet helps them grow up to be stronger, healthier individuals. It’s a wonderful thing to encourage your child to eat food that is beautiful, whole, natural, and packed with nutrients to help them grow up strong and healthy. 

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe that offering a healthy plate for kids each day is a key to health and wellness. Our mission is to support parents in helping their children be their strongest, happiest selves. For more advice on how to form healthy eating habits for kids, reach out to your knowledgeable Coastal Kids pediatrician. They can offer you specific advice for your child’s unique needs and preferences. To make an appointment visit us at