Office of Child Nutrition logo

3 - 5 Years

Click to download a handy quick reference sheet for the meat and meat alternates guidelines. (pdf)


  • Protein sources such as lean meat (beef, veal, and/or pork), skinless poultry (chicken, turkey), fish, cooked beans and peas (legumes), nut butters, eggs, fatfree or low-fat yogurt and cheeses are recommended.
  • Meat poultry and fish should have no more than 35% of calories from fat and no more than 10% of calories from saturated fat. Nuts, nut butters and seeds are excluded from this fat restriction because the majority of their fat is unsaturated which promotes cardiovascular health. Eggs and dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese are good sources of protein that are highly digestible. Low-fat or fat free yogurts and reduced-fat, low-fat, part-skim or fat-free cheeses are preferred.
  • Foods must have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises keeping trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Try to limit sodium to 200 mg per serving.
  • Cheese should be reduced-fat, low-fat, part-skim or fat-free.

Not Recommended

  • Baked pre-fried food items, such as chicken nuggets and fish sticks
  • Deep-fat frying in food preparation
  • Processed meats, such as hot dogs, bologna, bacon and sausage
  • Processed cheese food or product
  • Nuts and seeds for children under 4 years old (choking hazard). If served, the USDA recommends they be served ground or finely chopped in a prepared food.
  • Chicken or turkey with skin
  • Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, albacore tuna (potential for high mercury levels)

Portion Size

Item Meals Snacks
Meat, poultry, boneless fish, or alternate protein product 1 1/2 oz. 1/2 oz.
Cheese 1 1/2 oz. or 3 Tbsp. 1/16 cup (1/2 oz. or 1 Tbsp.)
Egg 3/4 egg 1/2 egg
Beans or peas 3/8 cup (3 oz. or 6 Tbsp.) 1/8 cup (1 oz. or 2 Tbsp.)
Nut butters (peanut or soy) 1 1/2 oz. (3 Tbsp.) 1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.)
Nuts and/or seed 3/4 oz. or 1 1/2 Tbsp. 1/2 oz. or 1 Tbsp.
Yogurt 3/4 cup (6 oz.) 1/4 cup (2 oz.)


Why are meat and meat alternates important?
  • Meats, beans, and eggs offer protein and other nutrients such as zinc, iron and B vitamins.
  • Protein supplies amino acids that build, repair and maintain body tissues.