Mighty Blog

What does a well-balanced meal plan look like?

Written by dietitians Kara Sommerfeld, Josephine Sebion and Derrick Connor.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of nutrition information and advice you hear about how to feed your children? It’s not surprising, considering how many things we hear in a day. If there is one takeaway from all the information out there, it is that eating a wide variety of foods is essential in the growth and development of our kids.

Food groups to include in your child’s diet

Your child’s meal plan should include as many food groups as possible. These groups include:

Mom cooking dinner with her kids
  • Grains: Aim for a mixture of whole grains and white grains. While whole grains tend to provide more dietary fiber, white grains are filled with essential B-vitamins. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends a 50/50 split when choosing whole vs white grains. Grains can include cereal, bread, rice, pasta, oatmeal, tortillas, etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Choose from fresh, canned, frozen, or dried – they are all packed with vitamins. Try to include as many different fruits and vegetables as possible.
  • Protein: Protein can be found in both animal and non-animal products. Some animal products families can include in their diet for protein are chicken, pork, fish, eggs and beef. For families that eat a plant-based diet or want to eat less animal products, beans, nuts, nut butters and tofu are great options for protein.
  • Dairy: Depending on your child’s age, either 2% or whole milk is recommended. You can also get diary from sources like yogurt and cheese as well. If you are concerned that your child does not tolerate dairy milk, talk to their health care provider to see if switching to a plant-based milk is appropriate for them. Not all plant-based milk contains the same nutrients as diary milk so their health care provider or dietitian can provide additional recommendations to meet all your child’s needs.

Some things to remember about food

Every child is different and that means their food preferences can be too. Below are some things to remember when it comes to introducing a new food item or the way we talk about food around our children.

  • Remember to let your child choose foods from what you offer, and never force them to take more (or less) food.
  • The way food is discussed can impact and shape a child’s relationship with food.
  • When offering or introducing a new food, it can be helpful to offer it next to a preferred food. If your child is a picky eater, it can help to remember to offer new foods many times! It may take offering a food 10-15 times (or more) for your child to try a new food.

Well-balanced meal plans can look different depending on your child’s age, medical conditions, food allergies, activity level and other factors. Most of the above information can be considered general advice. If you are not sure or have questions, please reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian!

Fun and easy recipes

If you’re looking for some fresh ideas, here are a couple of fun recipes that may help expand your family’s meal and snack ideas.

No-bake nut butter chocolate chip bites


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup peanut butter (or other nut or sun butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup liquid sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup of chocolate chips


  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (other baking spices would be yummy too)
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseeds or chia seeds


  • Add all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. If the mixture is not sticking together, add another tablespoon of nut butter or liquid sweetener.
  • Use a spoon, scoop, or your hands to roll into about a 1-inch ball and place on a plate or cookie sheet.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Chill for at least one hour and then enjoy!

Pita pizzas


  • Whole grain or white pita bread
  • Pizza or spaghetti sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese (amount may vary pending your preference)


  • Olive oil
  • Spices/herbs (oregano, garlic powder, basil, thyme and black pepper)
  • Protein (pepperoni, sausage, bacon, chicken or tofu)
  • Vegetables (try peppers, onions, mushrooms or your child’s favorite!)


  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • If desired, brush olive oil onto pita bread. Spread sauce over pita bread. Add preferred spices, protein, and vegetables. Cover with mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Let cool for several minutes before serving.
Mai Songsawatwong