How much is enough? Tablespoon per year of age approach meets nutrient needs for children

Appetite. 2012 Feb;58(1):163-7. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.09.028. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Background: Adults often ask health professionals for guidance on offering the appropriate serving sizes for young children and little research is available on whether serving size approaches meet children's nutrient needs.

Objective: Determine whether three serving size approaches for young children meet dietary standards for nutrient adequacy.

Design: We examined nutrient contents of three serving size approaches for children ages 2-5 years of age: 1 tablespoon per year of age (T/y), MyPyramid, and Child and Adult Care Food Program. Nutrient content of the three approaches were compared to the Estimated Energy Requirements (EER), Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), or Adequate Intake (AI) for each year of age for males and females; Analysis of Variance identified differences in nutrient content among the three approaches.

Results: Young children's nutrient requirements were met for most nutrients by all approaches. However, the recommendation for vitamin E, potassium, and fat were not met by any approach, for any year, for either girls or boys. Energy content of the T/y serving size approach was below the EER for each year of age and for both sexes but still met minimal vitamin and mineral needs.

Conclusion: Health professionals can feel comfortable using any of the three approaches. However, the T/y approach is a more graduated serving size approach, may be more consistently age appropriate for young children, and may be implemented more easily by adults.

MeSH terms

  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / standards*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Trace Elements / administration & dosage
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage


  • Trace Elements
  • Vitamins