Children under 24 months are sweet enough without adding sugar!

Dietary guidelines for Americans are issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services. The 2020-2025 guidelines include updated information about added sugar for children younger than 24 months and recommend these children do not receive any added sugars. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated labels to include information on whether a food has added sugars and how much. 

Read the labels

The biggest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, and candy. An example of information about added sugar in packaged foods is now available on the “Nutrition Facts” label (FDA, 2021).

What is added sugar?

Many foods or beverages have extra sugar and syrups added to them when they are processed or prepared. These added sugars have many different names, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose (FDA, 2021).

Here are a few ideas for how you can help your family reduce added sugar intake:

  • Read nutrition facts labels carefully (CDC, 2020). Many foods now list whether a food has added sugar and/or the amount of added sugar. You also can find information about added sugar by reading the ingredients. Avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years old. Learn more about nutrition facts labels here (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Serve water and milk. Avoid serving soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, and fruit drinks. Milk is a good beverage choice, and it contains natural sugar (lactose) and provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients children need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Fruit juice has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years old. It is recommended that you do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Go fresh and limit processed, pre-packed food and drinks. Sugar is often added to processed and pre-packaged food items while they are being made or at the table. For example, there are hidden sources of added sugar in processed foods like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressings, and baked beans (CDC, 2020).
  • Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit (Healthy Children, 2020). Keep bananas, oranges, or grapes in your young child’s line of sight, and offer these and other fruits regularly.

By limiting sugar and avoiding added sugars in your child’s diet, you are helping to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy beginning for your child. An app is available through the USDA My Plate Campaign to help you follow the new guidelines available on the My Plate website (USDA, 2021).



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 17). Food and drinks for 6 to 24 months old. Nutrition.

Healthy Children. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: APA tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, January 4). Changes to nutrition facts labels.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). What’s on your plate? MyPlate.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020,

December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (9th ed.).

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256.

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14.

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5.

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


What to do when it’s snack time?

Your child says, “I’m hungry,” but dinner isn’t for another 2 hours. Rather than have your child dig into the pantry or run for the cookie jar,  what can you do to help them fill that hungry void?

Snacks can be a positive or negative component of your child’s diet. Fruits and vegetables are good snacks to serve since most children do not eat the recommended 5 to 13 servings a day. Some popular fruits and vegetables like broccoli, baby carrots, snap peas, celery, blueberries, apricots, kiwi, pears, and peaches are great snacks that will help fill your child up between meals.

Some tips to get nutritious snacks, like fruits and vegetables, to your kids quickly include the following:

  • Chop your fruits and vegetables ahead of time and assemble them in easy grab-and-go areas of the refrigerator.
  • Set fruits out in bowls on the counter so they’re visible and accessible.

Low-fat dairy products are also great for snacking. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, and dairy products can fill you up. Popular low-fat dairy foods like yogurt, low-fat cheese, and low-fat pudding or frozen yogurt (these are high in sugar, so use as occasional treats) are good grab-and-go choices.

Some tips for providing low-fat dairy products to your children include the following:

  • Purchase yogurt, pudding, and cheeses in individual servings and make them visible in the refrigerator.
  • Plan ahead for snacks throughout the week so they are fresh.

For more information, visit the Family Toolkits at and look under Healthy Kid Snacks and Healthy Eating in a Hurry.

Healthy 5210 Lunches for Back-to-School

Back-to-school means adding that extra step of preparing lunches for the school day. Remember the daily dose of at least 5 fruits and vegetables and 0 sweetened beverages when packing school lunches, and try to include a variety of healthy options.

If your kids are picky eaters, try these ideas to help kids eat healthy:

  • Get kids involved and have them help make and pack lunch foods.
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of foods like sandwiches, deli meat, and cheeses.
  • Use wraps and fill them with tuna, chicken, or even veggies to make fun roll-ups.
  • Include fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and granola or bran flakes to sprinkle on top of yogurt.
  • Pack individualized items for kids to make their own meals, for example taco fillers, veggie tortilla pizzas, chips and bean salsa, and cracker stackers.
  • Include low-fat dips, like hummus, for vegetables.

If your mornings are rushed, try these ideas to save time:

  • Use dinner leftovers!
  • Pack the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Buy fruits that don’t require manipulation, like bananas, apples, pears, and oranges.
  • Pre-make and cut foods, like hard boiled eggs, carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, and tomatoes for easy grab and go options.
  • Make stackable foods in containers for the next day – or even the week – for example, salads and yogurt parfaits.


Additional Resources:

Back-to-School Healthy Lunch Ideas:—by-devin-alexander

Buying 5210 Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget

Grocery shopping can be challenging when you are on a tight budget, especially when you are trying to purchase enough fruits and vegetables to get the recommended five servings each day for each member of your family. However, there are ways that you can get five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and stay within your budget. Here are a few tips that may help:

Before you shop do the following:

  • Plan your menu for the week before you go shopping. Try to include meals that you can make in large batches and use for lunches or for another dinner later in the week, such as soups, casseroles, and stir-fries.
  • Make a list of the food you need to buy. Making a list will help keep you from buying items you do not need.
  • Join the store loyalty program. Many stores have loyalty cards. When you use these cards, you can buy items at a lower price. You may also get special offers and coupons that non-members do not get.
  • Cut coupons to save money. Remember that coupons only help if they are for items you usually buy. Remember another brand can still cost less even after you use a coupon.
  • Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping when you are hungry makes it more likely you will buy items you do not need and often leads to making unhealthy food choices.

At the store:

  • Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Fruits and vegetables cost less when they are in season. Some fruits and vegetables cost less year-round, such as bananas, apples, oranges, cabbage, sweet potatoes, dark-green leafy vegetables, green peppers, and carrots. You can find a list of what’s in season here
  • When you buy fresh produce, purchase in their whole form. Pre-cut and pre-washed produce is convenient but often costs much more.
  • Purchase frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen food is convenient, nutritious, and economical. Purchase multiple bags of frozen fruits and vegetables when they go on sale. You can also freeze fresh fruits and vegetables, when they are in season, to use later. Choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Buy canned fruits and vegetables. Canned fruits and vegetables usually cost less than fresh, and they are just as nutritious. Purchase fruits canned in water or in their own juice instead of canned in light or heavy syrup. Look for fruit canned in “100% fruit juice.” For vegetables, purchase low-sodium varieties. Look for “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on the label. You can also rinse canned vegetables to remove some of the sodium.
  • Stock up on fruits and veggies that are on sale. When there are specials on fruits and vegetables, try to stock up if they are frozen or canned. If there is a special on fresh produce, try using it in several meals that week. For example, if broccoli is on sale, use it fresh in salads for lunch and in casseroles or a frittata for dinner.
  • Try buying store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.

Use leftovers:

  • If you have leftover fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad, try using them so you don’t waste money. Most fruits and many greens, such as spinach and kale, can be used in smoothies. Fruits can be used on cereal, oatmeal, and ice cream. Many vegetables can be added to soups and casseroles. Or, display the fruits and vegetables you have on a plate with your families’ favorite dips as a snack!


Additional Resources:
Buying Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget:

Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget:

10 Tips: Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits:

Are Canned Fruits and Veggies as Healthy as Fresh:

Create a Grocery Game Plan:

Are Canned and Frozen Fruits and Veggies as Healthy as Fresh?


Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice! All forms of fruits and vegetables count toward your daily goal of 5 or more servings each day. Using canned and frozen produce provides more variety and convenient packaging and requires little preparation, which makes them easy to serve!

Facts About Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

  • Most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are processed within hours after harvesting, so their flavor is preserved and nutrient losses are minimal. The nutrient content is comparable to fresh.
  • Depending on the produce item, canning and freezing may actually preserve the nutrient value and even increase the availability of some nutrients to the body.
  • Studies show that recipes prepared with canned foods had similar nutritional values to those prepared with fresh or frozen ingredients.

Benefits of Using Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

  • Canned foods are cooked prior to packaging, so they are recipe-ready.
  • Canning locks in the nutrients at their peak of freshness, and, consequently, they have a long shelf life.
  • Frozen foods require little preparation – the washing and slicing is already done.
  • Including frozen and canned fruits and vegetables in your diet can increase variety, especially when some items may not be widely available as fresh.
  • Depending on the time of year and the specific type of produce, purchasing canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can save you money, especially when they are not in season or if you find your fresh produce spoiling before you can eat it.

Remember to Check Sodium and Sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label

  • Sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them so look for low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added labeled foods. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label, and choose the product with the lowest amount.
  • Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium even more.
  • Frozen vegetables with sauces and seasonings can have excess salt and added calories.
  • Look for fruit that is canned in water, its own juice, or light syrup. If the fruit is canned in light syrup, drain and rinse before use.
  • Make sure frozen fruits are 100% frozen fruits – no added sugars.

Smart Snack Tips for Healthy Children

The keys to smart snacking for healthy children include storing snacks where your family can see them; making snacks easy to grab and go; and great taste!

Follow these tips for healthy snacks:

  • Offer a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, at planned times throughout the day. Let children choose whether and how much they eat.
  • Wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they are ready to eat. Have your child help you place fruits and veggies into containers or bags, so they are easy to see!
  • Buy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating, such as juice boxes, raisins, fruit cups, and baby carrots.
  • Walk your children through the kitchen and show them where you keep healthy snack foods. Put healthy snack foods where children can reach them, such as the lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry, or cabinets. Keep fresh fruit, such as bananas and apples, on the counter where children can see them.
  • Ask your child what snack foods from each food group he or she would like to eat, and purchase those foods so they are available. Children are more likely to eat foods that they are able to choose.
  • Use clear containers and plastic bags or containers covered with plastic wrap, so your family can see what snack foods are inside.

For a list of healthy snack ideas for kids, visit:

Getting Children to Try New Foods

It is common for children to dislike a new food when it is first introduced. Children tend to like foods that are already familiar to them and dislike foods that are unfamiliar to them, which is a normal part of development. Although it may seem like your child is a fussy eater, he or she may just need to become more familiar with the food before he or she decides to try it.

Introduce new foods to children when they are young. Children are more likely to accept new foods when they are younger. It is more difficult to get children to accept new foods beyond toddlerhood.

Tips to encourage children to try a new food:

  • Try pairing the new food with a food they already like or with which they are familiar. For babies, try adding breastmilk or formula to pureed foods. For older children, try pairing a new vegetable with a dip they already like.
  • Role modeling. Children are more likely to try a new food if they see an adult eating the same food. Encourage your child to describe the food (e.g., “This carrot is crunchy”).
  • Provide a variety of foods. Children are more likely to have a varied and balanced diet later in life if they are introduced to a variety of foods, tastes, and textures during weaning and in early childhood. Your child should eat a variety of foods because he or she gets different nutrients from different foods. Fruits and vegetables are particularly important because children’s diets are usually low in these nutritious foods.
  • Try introducing new foods at snack time. This may be a good time to introduce other foods from the same food group or similar foods. For instance, provide a snack of 2-3 different fruits or vegetables from which your child can choose.

Remember – don’t give up too soon! It can take 8-10 tries before your child accepts a new food. Although your child might make facial expressions that show dislike for the food, he or she may still be willing to eat it. Continue to provide opportunities for him or her to taste the food and other foods within that food group.

Eat Together as a Family!

Did you know that eating frequent family meals together has been linked to youth being successful in school, including better grades and higher scores on achievement tests? You may have to work a little to get everyone together, but it is worth it, and the whole family will eat healthier! Below are a few strategies for eating together as a family:

Start eating meals together when your children are young. This way it becomes a habit. If you are not able to eat a meal together every day, set a goal. For instance, you could try having meals together as a family four times a week.

Plan when you will eat together as a family. Write it on your calendar. Family meals do not have to be held at the same time every day or even be the same meal every day. Time can be spent together at breakfast, lunch, dinner or even snack time! Most importantly, you are spending quality time together, and healthy food is part of it.

Offer a variety of healthy foods at family meal times. Do not lecture or force your child to eat. Let your child choose how much of each food he or she wants to eat. Avoid power struggles over what gets eaten, remember that mealtime is not a time for discipline and realize mealtime can be a good opportunity to model good manners.

Try a new food. Family meals are a great time to introduce new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As a family, you can all try something different! By providing healthy options and trying new foods, you will serve as a role model for your family.

Focus on the meal and each other. Turn off the TV, video games, and mobile phones.

Make family meals happy. Try to make meals a stress-free time. Get children talking! Talk about fun and happy things. A few conversation starters could include the following:

  • “What was the best thing that happened today?”
  • “What made you laugh today?”
  • “Tell me one thing you learned today.”

Cook Together as a Family!

Making meals as a family is a great way to spend time together, and children will learn about food and cooking! Many children enjoy helping in the kitchen. While they help you cook, you can talk to them about healthy foods. Children like to eat the foods they make. Cooking with your children is a good way to help them develop healthy eating habits and build food preparation skills!

Research has shown that children who help in the kitchen choose to eat more fruits and vegetables. Encourage your child to try some of the ingredients but do not force them. Being around and becoming more familiar with new ingredients will eventually help your child want to try new things!

Around 2 years old, children are ready to start helping with a few simple tasks. They will still need a lot of instruction and supervision, but they are likely to be very enthusiastic about helping!

Listed below are some appropriate kitchen tasks for children. Remember that children develop at their own rate, and they always need very close adult supervision. You must determine what is appropriate for your child.


  • Pour dry and liquid ingredients into a bowl
  • Stir ingredients
  • Tear lettuce and other greens
  • Peel fruits like oranges and bananas
  • Pull apart pieces of broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apply soft spreads, like peanut butter
  • Help put groceries away

Elementary school aged

  • Read recipes out loud together
  • Grate cheese with a box grater
  • Grease a baking pan
  • Scoop batter into muffin cups
  • Use a whisk
  • Load and unload the dishwasher
  • Set the table

Middle and high school aged

  • Safely use a chef’s knife
  • Learn how to operate kitchen appliances
  • Learn safety skills, such as tucking panhandles
  • Follow recipes on their own
  • Learn how to cook basic things, such as eggs