The Definitive Guide to Children’s Nutrition

Young Child Eating VegetablesFeeding infants is quite simple. There’s a ton riding on you getting it right, of course—a developing immune system, the fact that the kid’s growing an inch a week, a permeable blood-brain barrier, synaptic pruning—but the answer is usually always “feed them more breastmilk.” Even if you can’t nurse, you’ve got formula, which, for all its limitations, is a decent proxy for breastmilk and getting better all the time. Feeding children, however, is a different ballgame altogether.

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a post about children’s nutrition, so it’s long overdue. When it comes down to brass tacks, kids really are just small people. They aren’t a different species. They use the same nutrients their parents do. They need protein, fat, and glucose just like us. So in that sense, feeding kids is simple: Give them all the nutritious foods you already eat and know to be healthy.

But it’s not easy.

Adults have been around the block. We’ve already spent several decades eating, so what we do today won’t have as big an impact. Kids are starting from square one. They can get away with a lot in the sense that they have fast metabolisms, they heal quickly, and they carry less physiological baggage. That makes them appear impervious to damage. A Snickers bar may very well send a diabetic’s blood sugar to the stratosphere or trigger weight gain in a middle-aged man, while the average toddler will channel that candy bar into pure ATP and use it to scale bookshelves, leap from sofas, and sing the feature song from the latest Disney flick twenty times in a row.

But from another perspective, a child’s nutrition is way more crucial and precarious. You have an untouched, uncorrupted member of the most complex, creative, intelligent, courageous mammalian species in the known universe. A being of pure potential. You have the opportunity to realize that potential by nourishing it with the best food—or you can tarnish it.

A prudent position is the middle one: Feed healthy foods, but don’t flip out because they ate Baskin Robbins ice cream cake at their friend’s 5th birthday party. After all, look at your own history. Many of you spent decades eating the standard American/Westernized diet. You ended up fat and unhealthy. And you and thousands more turned it all around just by going Primal.

It’s also the position that promotes sanity in a world full of industrialized food. Candy’s going to slip through the cracks. They’re going to be at a friend’s house and have boxed mac and cheese for dinner. Full-on food intolerances or allergies aside, be a little flexible. Your lives will be less stressful, believe me, and you’ll all be a bit saner.

With this in mind…

What are some nutrients to watch out for?


Growing children are constantly laying down new bone. They need calcium (and collagen, but we’ll get to that later) to do it.

RDA: 1000 mg/day (4-8 years), 1300 mg/day (9-13 years)

Bone-in sardines, hard cheeses, raw milk, full-fat yogurt/kefir, and leafy greens are the best sources of calcium.

Suggested recipe: A hunk of Emmental cheese.


It’s the most common cause of preventable cognitive disability; nearly a third of 6-12 year olds worldwide eat inadequate amounts of iodine.

Growing children need iodine to produce thyroid hormone, an important regulator of the growth factors that determine mental and physical development. Kids with iodine deficiency are less likely to reach their maximum height, and studies show that iodine deficiency can lower IQ scores by up to 12.5 points.

RDA: 90 ug/day (4-8 years), 120 ug/day (9-13 years)

Seaweed, with kombu/kelp being highest and nori being lower but still higher than other foods. Milk (storage vats are disinfected with iodine).

Suggested recipe: Toasted nori snacks. Kelp granules sprinkled on everything.


Iron is another important mineral in children’s nutrition, providing support for growth, neurological development, and blood cell formation. Keep in mind, however, that kids between the ages of 4 and 8 actually need less iron than babies, toddlers, and teens because they grow more slowly.

RDA: 10 mg (4-8 years), 8 mg (9-13 years, prior to menstruation for girls)

Red meat, especially organ meats (including chicken liver), is very high in iron. The heme iron found in animal products is also far more bioavailable than non-heme (plant) iron. If you’re going to eat and attempt to absorb non-heme iron, pair it with a source of vitamin C.

Suggested recipe: Chicken liver paté.


Zinc is really important for children’s physical growth and immune development. In one study, modest zinc supplementation to the tune of 5.7 mg/day helped growth-delayed kids hit their growth targets compared to placebo. Other research has found that correcting zinc deficiencies reduces diarrheal infections and pneumonia in kids under 5.

RDA: 5 mg/day (4-8 years), 8 mg/day (9-13 years)

Red meat (especially lamb), oysters, crab, and lobster are the best sources of zinc.

Suggested recipe: Place a can of smoked oysters (drained), 8 olives (I like Kalamata), and a tablespoon of avocado oil in food processor or mortar and pestle. Turn into paste. Eat with a spoon or spread on crackers. You can also add lemon juice and pecorino romano cheese for some extra calcium.

Vitamin A

Full-blown vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and permanent blindness. Mild deficiency increases the risk of catching an upper respiratory tract infection.

RDA: 400 ug/day (4-8 years), 600 ug/day (9-12 years)

Pre-formed (more bioavailable) retinol: liver, cod liver oil, eggs, full-fat dairy.

Plant vitamin A: Sweet potato, kale, spinach, carrots.

Suggested recipe: Liver pate.

Vitamin B12

Myelin is the protective sheathing around nerve fibers. It insulates the nerves and increases the efficiency of impulse transmission. Vitamin B12 is a vital co-factor in myelination—the laying down of the sheathing—which takes place in infancy and on through early childhood. Without adequate dietary vitamin B12, the myelin will be weak and ineffective.

RDA: 1.2 ug/day (4-8 years), 1.8 ug/day (9-13 years)

Animal products are the best and only sources of vitamin B12.

Suggested recipe: Meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish cooked any way.

Vitamin C

We can’t make vitamin C like most other mammals, so we have to eat it if we want its benefits, which include collagen formation and deposition, tissue healing, and immune response.

RDA: 25 mg/day (4-8 years), 45 mgday (9-13 years)

Vitamin C is present in most fruits and vegetables. If your kid eats plenty of those (what kid doesn’t like fruit?), he or she will be fine.

Suggested recipe: Tall glass of Florida orange juice! Kidding. Some oranges will do.

Vitamin D

If your child is getting unfiltered sunlight on a regular basis, vitamin D probably isn’t a concern. But sometimes the sun’s not out (for months). Sometimes your kid needs to eat some vitamin D.

RDA: 15 ug/day for everyone

Great sources include meat, fish, eggs, and cod liver oil. New research has shown that animal-sourced vitamin D is about 5 times as potent as the vitamin D3 found in supplements (which isn’t too shabby in the first place).

Suggested recipe: Cod liver oil capsules, swallowed whole or pierced and the contents squeezed into smoothies.

Vitamin K2

One way to think of vitamin K2 is that it tells calcium where to go. Low vitamin K2 could mean your calcium ends up in your arteries. High vitamin K2, and it’ll end up in your teeth and your bones. I know where I’d rather have it, especially if I’m an 8-year-old human laying new bone daily.

RDA: Unknown. But it’s quite safe.

Natto is the best source. “Best” as in densest, not “best” as in “tastes great.” The flavor takes some getting used to, but once you do… Other options include goose liver, gouda cheese, and more speculatively, some fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut. Chris Masterjohn did a whole series on vitamin K2 that contains some food sources.

Suggested recipe: Aged gouda (at least 2 years) on rice crackers or eaten Costanza-style.


Choline helps the liver process fat and clear toxins, and it’s a precursor to acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that plays a major role in forming memories and learning new skills.

RDA: 250 mg/day (4-8 years), 375 mg/day (9-13 years)

Egg yolks are pound for pound the best source. Livers of all kinds are runners-up.

Suggested recipe: Scrambled eggs with an extra yolk (creamier).


Preformed long chain omega-3s are very important for brain development. That’s been the case in humans for a very long time.

Suggested recipe: Ikura, or salmon roe. Sockeye salmon with crispy skin (fish bacon always lures them in).

Saturated Fat

A curious thing occurs when a child turns 2, according to the powers-that-be. Saturated fat goes from being an essential, dominant, and healthful component of the breastmilk upon which they rely for sustenance to being a lethal toxin. Parents are urged by many health professionals and public service messages to switch to low-fat dairy at this time, and “When should my toddler switch to skim milk?” is now a common query on children’s health websites.

It’s horrifying.

Our cell membranes are about half saturated fat, which is more stable and less vulnerable to peroxidation. This stability makes our cell membranes more resistant to oxidative stress. Kids certainly need cell membranes.

Our bodies use saturated fats to shuttle proteins between cells, release neurotransmitters, and form memories. Kids certainly need to send proteins around the body, release neurotransmitters, and remember stuff.

Saturated fats often come attached to other nutrients kids inarguably require. The more parents restrict saturated fat in their kids’ diets, for example, the less calcium, vitamin E, and zinc they get. It’s hard to “reduce saturated fat” without also reducing lots of other good foods.


Cholesterol is another one of those weird nutrients that becomes toxic once you stop getting it from breastmilk. I didn’t buy it with saturated fat, and I’m not buying it with cholesterol.

Parents who follow the official advice and “limit cholesterol” deprive their kids of a vital nutrient responsible for production of steroid hormones and vitamin D. Sure, while a kid’s liver will make plenty of cholesterol on its own, limiting cholesterol means limiting some of the most nutrient-dense foods, like egg yolks and shrimp.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Ideally, children will get access to plenty of microbes by interacting with the natural world around them. But food-based probiotics are good, too. They provide unique nutrients, as the fermentation process often creates new forms of the nutrients or makes existing ones more bioavailable, and they offer novel flavors that promote a more sophisticated palate. A kid who learns to love kimchi will probably try anything.

Prebiotics are arguably as important as probiotics. Both work in concert to modulate the immune response and set children up for a healthy immune system. Remember that infectious diseases used to kill a ton of kids. Even though we can usually take care of acute infections with modern medicine, it’s nice to be able to count on your immune system, too.

I suggest everyone punch their children’s meals into a food tracker for a week or so to get an idea of their nutrient intakes. Cronometer and MyFitnessPal are good.

Should You Manage Your Kid’s Macros?

Make sure they’re getting enough protein/fat/carbs?

Not really. I’m a fan of the “unfeeding” approach. Like the unschooler allows the child to make decisions about his education, providing only resources and guidance when requested, the unfeeder provides a meal with all three macronutrients represented and lets the child decide what and how much to eat.

If it’s obvious, and your kid’s eating sweet potato after sweet potato and totally ignoring the beef and broccoli on the plate, make some rules. But for the most part, kids eat as much as they need. This laissez faire approach to feeding kids, however, only seems to cause problems when they have unfettered or regular access to industrial foods and beverages like French fries, pizza, crispy snacks, soda, candy, and other food products designed to trigger the reward system and override natural satiety signaling. It tends to work well when you offer things like this:

  • Eggs (especially the yolks)
  • Bone marrow
  • Bone broth
  • Gelatinous meats (oxtail, cheek, shank, etc)
  • Organ meats
  • Fish eggs (ikura, or salted salmon roe, is a great option at sushi places or Japanese markets)
  • Fish (fresh, canned, bone-in)
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt/kefir
  • Raw milk
  • Berries
  • Starchy tubers
  • Colorful fruits and veggies
  • Beets
  • Seaweed
  • Coconut milk/butter
  • Legumes, properly prepared and tolerated
  • Bananas, slightly green for moderate resistant starch content

As a longtime parent, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve developed a few tricks. I’ve made some observations you may find illuminating. What follows are the tips, tricks, and rules I’ve found very useful in feeding kids well.

Don’t assume your kid is intolerant of everything.

Don’t ignore obvious intolerances or allergies. Just don’t seek them out when they don’t actually exist. Chances are, your kid can enjoy and benefit from full-fat dairy, white potatoes, nightshades, eggs, and even the occasional legume.

“Seven bites.”

7’s a good number, but it could be anything. Make a household rule that you have to take at least 7 bites before deeming a food “yucky.”

Calories count.

But not like you’re thinking. Overall calorie intake is very important for growing children. They’re like CrossFitting endurance athletes training for an MMA fight—they need to eat. Big things are happening constantly in their bodies, and they need plenty of food to support the changes. Don’t consciously limit (or let your kid limit) your kid’s calorie intake unless you have a valid medical reason.

Egg yolks disappear into everything.

Spaghetti sauce? Add a few egg yolks after you’ve turned off the heat.

Mac and cheese? A few egg yolks enrich it without changing the flavor.

Scrambled eggs? Add an extra egg yolk.

There’s nothing wrong with a smoothie.

There’s a lot right. A well-designed smoothie can provide tons of important nutrients. An example:

  • Baby kale (vitamin K, phytonutrients, magnesium, calcium, folate, potassium)
  • Frozen green banana (resistant starch, potassium)
  • Kefir (probiotics, fat, folate, vitamin k2)
  • Egg yolk (choline)
  • Whey protein
  • Brazil nut (selenium)
  • Cod liver oil (vitamin A, vitamin D, DHA/EPA)
  • Frozen mango (vitamin C, vitamin A, folate), coconut water (potassium, magnesium)

Kids will eat anything in popsicle form.

Take the leftovers of the nutrient-dense smoothies you make and freeze them in popsicle molds. There, that’s “dessert.”

Rice is an excellent vehicle for nutrition.

Rice is just empty carbs. Right? Not necessarily. Sub bone broth for water, add a dash of Trace Minerals, throw in a few shakes of kelp granules? Suddenly, your rice is a repository of magnesium, collagen, iodine, and other nutrients they may not be getting elsewhere.

Plus, kids are whirlwinds of energy. If they’re doing childhood right, they’re moving constantly. They can actually use those empty glucose molecules.

Crackers are good vehicles for nutrient-dense dips.

Sure, you don’t want your kid killing a box of rice crackers by themselves. As vehicles for things like tuna salad, liver paté, good cheese, hummus, however, they excel.

Fish sauce as a training tool for picky eaters.

Real fish sauce made from fermented salted fish is a potent source of glutamate, a flavor-enhancing amino acid that can teach picky eaters to like novel foods. It also makes food taste good on a subjective level, so you’ll be hitting them from two angles. 

Frozen fruit is dessert.

If it’s cold and sweet, kids assume it’s a popsicle. Mangos, strawberries, blackberries, cherries. Forget ice cream for dessert. Serve up a big cup of frozen blueberries, perhaps with some real whipped cream. (This may work on adults, too)

Toothpicks make everything delicious.

If your ungrateful kid won’t eat your seared scallops, or your perfectly medium rare lamb chops, stick some toothpicks in. For whatever reason, kids just can’t resist toothpicked food.

Bribing works…in the short-term.

On a population level, at least. School children offered small prizes in the lunch line if they chose the “healthier” option were more likely to choose it. Be wary of relying on this. Negotiating with terrorists may work in individual instances, but it sets a bad precedent for future incidents.

Well, that’s it for today, folks. I hope you come away with a better grasp of children’s nutrition needs. Let me know how any of those strategies and rules work for you and your family. And please chime in down below with your own tips for feeding kids right. I know we’ve got a ton of parents out there.

Thanks for reading.

Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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68 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Children’s Nutrition”

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  1. Great tips! What worked here very well when the children were younger is ‘pasta sauce’, where you easily can put in more than enough vegetables that they didn’t like to eat. We called it sneak vegetables as the boys tend to say that the sauce was delicious 🙂

  2. Good article. The only problem is that most small kids are incredibly picky eaters. My daughter wouldn’t eat foods if they were even touching each other on the plate, much less some of the items suggested here. We had a two-bite rule at our house. Seven bites would have been asking way too much. She would have happily starved before eating sardines, oysters, seaweed, natto (which I won’t eat either), etc. On the other hand, my son would eat anything not nailed down from a very early age, which was great.

    I think you just have to do the best you can to get a few nutrients into your kids. It does get easier as they get older.

    1. +1. I almost stopped reading after the suggested recipe was liver pate. I dunno what planet Mark’s kids are from, but I think my daughter would eat maybe 2 of the suggested foods in this article. Liver, oysters, fish eggs? Seriously?

      1. It’s just like every other suggestion of “best recommended practices”. They’re only suggestions, not mandates. For the record, my now 11 year-old happily eats liver (which I can’t even stand), pate, oysters (grilled please, not raw!) and seaweed. Not to mention that she will absolutely demolish any kind of seafood. She’ll polish off an entire jar of fish eggs – of any type – in two days. However, I can’t get her to drink a smoothie. Ever. No matter what’s in it. She’s been like this since her introduction to solid foods and gets to make plenty of not-quite-ideal food decisions when she’s eating outside of the house.

        1. L. O. L. !!!
          My daughter asked the Costco lady for extra samples of the sardines (which the lady was happy to give away since no one else wanted them), but I’ve NEVER made a smoothie my daughter will take more than a taste of!

      2. My daughter’s father gave her liver pate and told her it was chocolate pudding. 30 years later he remains unforgiven. Liver, oysters, fish eggs? Not happening.

      3. I know plenty of kids who eat liver pate, more than one who absolutely love it.

      4. I dunno. My 2yo has become picky. She survives mainly on cheese and fruit/veggie pouches. But she will polish off some crackers with pate, with or without cheese. Maybe it’s because I fed her liver as one of her first foods and she developed a taste for it? I dunno. Or because I serve it on a cracker?

      5. There’s a book called “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman wherein she describes moving to France and raising her child, and her astonishment at seeing how varied and “sophisticated” the babies’ diets were in France. Her whole book is about how the child rearing and food culture of France, and how it banishes “picky eaters”. Very illuminating!

      6. “Pâté” sounds ambitious, but my kids eat Braunschweiger on rice crackers like their lives depend on it. You never know what they’ll love if you never give them a chance to try it. Our 7-year-old neighbor who gets candy for an “afternoon snack” every. single. day. found out that he loves apples, carrots, and watermelon once he saw my kids eating them. He had literally never been offered them at home, “because kids don’t like that stuff!”

    2. Kids will usually follow our clues. They way we look when we feed them some foods makes them realize we don’t expect them to like it. Sushi is a favorite in our extended family even among the toddlers. It probably wouldn’t be if I was the first one offering it to them.

    3. Kids are often picky but they can also surprise us. Some things my picky 4 year old hates: most mac n cheese, most cooked vegetables, toast, most “mixed foods” (like chili or stew), watermelon. Things she loves: seaweed salad, octopus, raw basil leaves, anchovies, grilled calamari, sauerkraut, lentil soup. So who the heck knows with kids haha.

      We pretty much follow the division of responsibility and it works well for us. I usually give tiny portions of new foods and present with little comment. Sometimes she will just smell or take a lick and that’s ok. She probably eats too many sweets but not ridiculous amounts.

    4. Kids should develop a less picky palate when carbs are limited, specifically refined carbs and grains. Grains ideally being completely eliminated. The less carbs they eat, the less they will crave them. They should surely be satisfied and full after eating more fat instead.

  3. I LOVE THIS! My kids happily ate Primal when they were toddlers, but it’s more challenging these days. I truly believe that keeping their palate as expansive as possible is key, and I’m happy for the choices I made to do that. Of course, not every child will eat liver pate (although for the record Braunschweiger was one of my favorite foods when I was a kid), but you never know if you don’t try. And never underestimate the promise of hidden ingredients (e.g. a bit of pureed sardines, veggies, or egg yolk as Mark suggests). I love using bone broth to cook rice and veggies and as an substitute for water or regular broth in soups and stews. I also second the toothpick and popsicle ideas. Frozen kefir with berries is yummy frozen. I always enjoy the children’s posts. Keep them coming!

  4. And please don’t forget – exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months with complementary foods thereafter until age 2.

    1. Yes, yes, yes!

      And early foods are for play and sensory exploration, not nutrition.

  5. If I might make a suggestion, Kids will eat what you eat. Sometimes it takes longer days months, years) and sometimes it will never be their thing. But the important thing is to provide a variety on nutrient dense foods for them to choose from.

  6. “Kids will eat anything in popsicle form.” I feel like I hit the limit of that advice. Actually, putting two of these tips together, I blend whole eggs into the popsicle recipe, which is basically yoghurt, fruit and honey in a blender. I’ve idly wondered how fast egg popsicles spoil. Also! The sticks in my popsicle molds don’t work well enough to drag the popsicles out. I’ve intended to spray them with coconut oil first, but when the boys and I make popsicles, there’s a lot going on, and I’ve never successfully done it. I’ll let you know if it helps.

  7. Thanks for the awesome guide. Always interested in making sure my little primalest is well nourished. He continues to thrive on full fat dairy, farm eggs and other primal goodies, he even loves Kimchi! Pasta sauce can hide all kinds of wonderful things! Only disagreement is with popsicles, he got a “chocolate” push pop after a Taekwondo demo that turned out to be Black Bean! To his credit/hunger level, he ate half of it before he asked me what was wrong with it.

  8. We also call bribery “negotiating with terrorists.” Must be used judiciously. Lol. I love the Ellyn Satter Institute approach to feeding kids – your job is what, where, and when, and their job is whether and how much. I make the rules about what food is offered, where they will eat, and what time is mealtime, and they get to choose which of those foods they will eat and how much – fully up to them, no cajoling or bribing or threatening or anything. It makes things much less stressful for all of us, allows me to lay out healthy options, and allows them to learn their body’s signals and develop their own taste.
    Also, shockingly, I’ve found that kids will eat things if you don’t try to make them want to. They are so sensitive to that. As long as I don’t say anything about the broccoli, just put it on his plate, my kids eat a little bit of it, and my oldest is three and somewhat picky. If I breathe a word about “yummy” or “makes you grow big and strong” or “just one bite,” suddenly dinner becomes a battlefield, like in an instant. If they say, “Yucky! Take it off!” I say, “No, I won’t take it off, but you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.” Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Letting go of the anxiety was the hardest part, but this approach is totally amazing for my sanity and our relationship, and I think, their relationship with food.

    1. I also really enjoyed Satter’s approach, although we ultimately became more radical-unschoolers about food than Satter-ists. Another tenet of hers is that there is at least one food available at each meal that you know your child enjoys/will eat.

  9. Fish sauce is magic. Just make sure to cook the fish smell out. As the father of one of the pickiest human beings I’ve ever met (she didn’t get it from me – I’m basically Andrew Zimmern), this has been the only way I can introduce novel foods. Well, fish sauce and the fear of imminent starvation.

    1. How are you using the fish sauce to introduce new foods? Can you give an example? I love fish sauce and am curious how it’s used outside of asian recipes and especially how to use it to entice kids to new tastes?

  10. Thanks for this article. I’ve been doing Primal long enough that I can see problems starting in kids. Please consider making this a reoccurring subject.

  11. Everything is finger food. Cut most food into small chunks and let kids eat with their fingers. Fingers make food taste better. Plus, it helps develop small muscle movements and hand/eye/mouth coordination.

  12. This is probably the best piece I ever read on children’s nutrition. Too bad mine are grown up! But totally agree that taking the middle ground is the best approach. I always made sure we had healthy stuff at home and never freaked out with what they ate when they were out. Definitely trying that smoked oyster/olive/avocado oil spread myself! And the one food that worked great for my kids as babies, and that I share with every new parent…avocados are pretty much the perfect baby/toddler food. Tons of healthy fat, you can mash them or cut them into cubes, and every kid seems fine with the taste.

    1. Son, if you’re reading this, avocadoes are not baby food. Babies eat avocadoes, but babies breath air and ride in taxis. It doesn’t mean it’s baby air or they’re baby taxis. (I was going to let my seven-year-old read the article, but I think there might be some sensitivity here.)

  13. I grew up in Poland. Livers, chicken stomachs, cow stomachs, kidneys, chicken hearts..all that was staple. if you feed your kids offal from the very beginning they will love it. now, at 40..i still love that kind of food. Cows stomach soup is my favourite. it looks disgusting but tastes divine.
    Don’t know of anyone who eats cow stomachs 🙂

    1. I ate pig’s stomach growing up, dipped in soy sauce and sambal. Haven’t eaten it in ages but loved it.

  14. Thank you for the article and please keep the kids posts coming! I love making soups for my son. They are easy to make and you can sneak in lots of nutrients. I think though that we are just lucky as he is a good eater, has been from very young. Eats with no problem the majority of foods from your list.

  15. As a holistic nutritionist I have to say- keep in mind that RDIs are established to prevent disease. They are grossly underestimated and inadequate. Kids (and adults) need nutrients in much higher amounts than RDI. Especially in the current highly toxic environment.
    Also must disagree with dairy as a good source of calcium. Most deficient Calcium kids I see are the ones eating most dairy. There’s plenty of evidence that calcium from dairy is very poorly absorbed.
    Not sure about the US bit in Australia iodine is no longer used as a sanitiser in dairy industry- chlorine is. So vast numbers of kids (and adults) are deficient in iodine – nobody eats kelp.
    This is a good starting guide but I believe we must look deeper. Thx

  16. Going to try using this approach with my child. She can be a little headstrong however and thinks just because she’s 25 she doesn’t have to listen to my advice …

    1. hahahahaha! (Mom of a 22yo old eats great but can’t break his Gatorade habit!)

  17. loosely comparing kids to terrorists at the base of the article and no shots fired activity in the comments??
    Maybe proof that going primal is good for numbing our modern instincts to be easily offended…

    1. Lol! I was bracing myself for comments from everyone who was offended by that ? Pleasantly surprised!

  18. “There was no such thing as kids’ food. There was/is just food…”

    In our house (a tribe of five), the same holds true… there is no such thing as kids’ food. Our typical dinner looks something like this… cold homemade bone broth (congealed, the only way is should be) mixed with fermented kimchi, marrow, sliced avocado, authentic olive oil, sea salt and kelp granules (love that this was mentioned)… follow that with nose-to-tail ground beef (liver, pancreas, spleen, heart and 30% chuck) and lots of ghee… our sides might be seaweed and sorghum (we alternate between sorghum, sprouted chic peas and potatoes). Our boys don’t know any different… we usually end dinner with 100% cacao, a bit of raw honey and a sprinkle a crunchy sea salt. How are you going to complain about that?!

    For the record, I understand about all the parents questioning the practicality of these practices… would have questioned this too 6 years ago. Out of medical necessity, we did the GAPS diet… when your young boys don’t eat anything except bone broth for a whole week, they’ll eat anything. Not saying that’s easy… it was one of the hardest things that we’ve ever done (not an exaggeration). Never looked back… never been stronger… never been healthier… never been happier.

  19. Good post, but not definitive for two reasons. 1) Doesn’t mention lithium, important for B-12 utilization, critical for developing embryos (and requirements likely higher for kids) and neuronal/stem cell development, yet information about lithium in the food supply is poor and inconsistent at best. Sadly won’t be recognized for years or decades, due to the drug prejudice… 2) We’re generations away from accounting for all essential dietary molecules (see my /nutrition/ page for a theoretical model), and I think we may never account for all molecules…

    Still, good start, and the post probably does more good than harm.

  20. I can’t decide which is worse, iodine deficiency or the prop 65 warning on my kelp granules. I’m also on the fence about dairy and my oldest will not touch sardines, nor do I feel she eats enough dark leafy greens to get the full benefit. Feeding kids is the hardest part of my parenting journey!

  21. One of the best things I’ve done with my kids is be clear about which foods will make them strong (meat/veg etc) and what foods won’t make them strong (candy etc). Sometimes I get them to show me their muscles at dinnertime….They’ve really taken it on board and now know the reason why we don’t eat much sweet stuff (approx one snack per day, in the afternoon) and how important it is to be sure to eat plenty of the good stuff. I did the same with exercise (except of course we just call it “play”) and sleep, and so as a family we’ve found it remarkably easy to get into and maintain good habits – especially as they see their parents practicing it daily so it’s easy for the kids to follow the example.

  22. After dinner I asked my 2 young grandsons what they would like for dessert? The oldest said ice cream, the youngest said yogurt and honey. I’ll work a little harder on the older one. 🙂

  23. Hi – I heard that lambs brains are full of DHA and are great for pregnant women and toddlers- is this true? (Disappears when added to scrambled eggs.)

  24. I’m really surprised by the cod liver oil in smoothies. The entire smoothie does not taste like cod? I might just try it then!

  25. Formula is almost as good as breastmilk? What the??? Maybe your trying to stop people feeling guilty but I’m afraid that statement is not evidence based

    1. Some types of formula are better than others. Sure, it’s not ideal but some women are unable to breastfeed. Babies are actually quite adaptable and most do just fine on a good substitute.

    2. Note the word “almost.” If you look at the “evidence,” the statement is true. Babies do best on breast milk, but formula is “almost” as good. Babies don’t suffer from malnutrition while being fed formula. In the context of the paragraph, the meaning was that breastfed or formula fed babies are easy to provide balanced nutrition for, and if they need more, you just feed them more. But once children eat solid foods, feeding them and providing balanced nutrition (to avoid deficiencies) becomes more challenging.

  26. All great points, and I echo the “kids are really picky” comment. I was belessed, 35 years ago, with a really smart pediatrician who told me you don’t need to get all the food groups (yes, I believed the usda then) every meal. Every day or even every week is fine. So to translate that to our Primal view, our ancestors didn’t get the same amount of every nutrient every day, let alone every meal, and we needn’t try to, or force our kids to.
    I do disagree with the seven bites. My youngest, now 30, was the world’s pickiest eater. I finally had to decide, with my pediatrician’s approval, that ketchup was a vegetable. The Dr was emphatic, and I think he was right, that insisting that said youngest eat things he “didn’t like” would make him a pickier eater in the long run. By the time he was in middle school, and to this day, he’ll try, and likes, everything!

  27. Great article! But what about Gluten? are you suggesting to expose them to it (since there’re studies that claim exposure helps to avoid gluten sensitivity) or you make them avoid it? (knowing that as soon as they go at a friend’s house or even at granparents’ one they will receive some white bread or pasta?)

  28. While I currently only have a 2 year old (Another in my belly), I might not have as much experience as other parents. But, so far at least I think baby-led weaning has really helped with what my toddler eats. Since 6 months she was exposed to finger foods, lots of roasted root veggies, avocado, mushrooms, etc. 8 months we introduced full fat greek yogurt, eggs, meat. I couldn’t believe how well she ate, and basically anything except for awhile she disliked cheese. She’s had some times where she wouldn’t eat dinners, but I think mainly was more of a “Im a toddler this is what I do” sort of thing. At 2 she eats chicken liver pate like a beast, salmon, halibut, brie, etc. Most of the people I knew/family thought it was very strange to give finger-foods at 6 months and not do purees, but along with breastfeeding and letting her cook with me/watch I think that her palette is already well established. I’m sure she’ll throw some fits here and there, but hopefully the trend continues!

      1. Haha. No,a second one and a 2 year old who popped out of there awhile ago.

      1. Thank you, I was fed a pretty terrible diet growing up and have tried to make sure my kid doesn’t experience all the stomach issues that comes with it. ?

  29. Another good way to hide things is with the food processor. Organs especially can be hidden in ground beef (at a sensible ratio–start small and work up), particularly in recipes where the beef is browned with onion and spices. Same goes for “yukky” veggies–mushrooms, zucchini, etc. But for the most part, we don’t have to do this anymore. After two years primal, the kids eat everything now. The kids put braunschweiger on the shopping list themselves when we run out. I had bought it for me, and they at first didn’t like it, but they fell into it on their own. Now I have to ration it so that they don’t OD on vitamin A. They’d eat it breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I let them. US Wellness Meats carries it from pastured sources. It’s great chopped up with PK mayo like you’d do for tuna salad, then served either in romaine leaf “boats” or on spring mix.

  30. This is outstanding. In case it is helpful, here is my procedure for taking my 5- and 7-year-old to birthday parties:

    1) Feed them huge amounts of bacon right before.
    2) Bring bacon to the party.
    3) Let them have fruit at the party. Kids, like MMA Crossfitters, do need carbs.
    4) When you discover the 5-year-old face down in a pile of goldfish crackers, tip 90% of the crackers back into the bowl and replace with bacon.
    5) Put fruit in their hands during the birthday song.
    6) They are now stuffed on bacon and exhausted and want to go home.
    7) Enjoy a pleasant afternoon being the one parent whose kids are not having a meltdown.

  31. I often feel that nutrition for children is more conflicting than nutrition for adults. With adults the debate is typically over carbohydrates and calories and what we should or shouldn’t do but with children I feel that there’s more discussion over actual foods. Is milk safe? is milk good? Will I harm my child without milk. Good information

  32. I have a tip that my be helpful for the picky eaters. Picky means the kid/teen picks what the will eat or will not. I got so annoyed with this! I have 3 kids and nobody would eat anything but junk.
    To solve this we started to have picnics but first we had to go “explore” for our food. We found the farmers market, the mexican grocery, asian grocery, any culturally geared market or shop. At first the rule was one food and one drink that was new. Now as teens, I will let them have a favorite and the new.
    The fun we have! Half or more was just gross but the sharing, laughing and excitement when something was tasty made for a family tradition. For added fun I threw in about a dozen dollar kites, frisbees, or sleds. All in all I no longer have picky eaters.

  33. Great, sensible advice. I like the push towards a healthy diet, while allowing flexibility. I definitely agree with the micronutrient recommendations, particularly in utero. Impaired neurological development from iodine deficiency and poor myelin sheath development from vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, are also of concern during pregnancy. For a great global perspective, also check out – a non-profit that focuses on good nutrition before a child’s second birthday!

  34. Are you a registered/licensed dietitian? Any specialization in pediatric nutrition? What are your qualifications to give this advice on children?

    1. Children are people too. Advice is free, take it or leave it. That includes advice from registered dietitians. During my first pregnancy, the “registered dietitian” said I could drink diet soda and eat Ritz crackers on a gestational diabetes diet. We’re pretty resilient creatures–eat what you will. Our pediatric nutrition specialist always has a bottle of Pepsi on her desk. Do I take her advice very seriously? Not really. Our insurance covers her for allergy tests though and there aren’t many people in our area.

  35. Ummm…I can’t believe bone-in sardines and liver pate are suggestions on a guide to children’s nutrition. Have you ever even been around kids? Most of them give the side eye to anything that isn’t carbs or fruit.

    1. That’s funny. My 1-year-old uses his super fine motor skills to meticulously drop every last speck of sardine off the table. He picks it up, inspects it closely, drops it off the table and looks over the side to make sure it hit the floor. He eats everything, except sardines. However, he seems more amenable to the idea when I make it in tomato sauce with spinach. Plain, not so much.

  36. Took my son to his 2 year physical at the pediatrician’s office today and I got “the question” – have you switched to lowfat milk yet?? He seemed worried when I told him that my older kids and in fact the whole family still does whole milk dairy. I didn’t argue with him other than to say “Well, I’ve always read that fats are good for the brain.” His answer? “Well, the brain is done growing by 2 years old so you really don’t need all that saturated fat for anything anymore!” I think he would have died if I told him how many egg yolks we eat a week!