Like most other parents, you too find it challenging to make healthy eating a habit for kids, right? Well, there are multiple factors that control the eating habits of children. However, when you are determined, it is not an impossible task to inculcate good habits and ensure healthy eating for preschoolers.
The easy availability of fast foods and ready-to-eat fixes add to kids’ unhealthy eating habits. They love to feast on chips, cupcakes, and French fries, which are nutrient deficient and calorie rich and provide no health benefits either. But by exposing your child to nutrient-rich meals, you can set them on a path of healthy eating. This includes introducing colorful fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
What Constitute Healthy Eating for Preschoolers
According to the Choose My Plate nutrition guide of the Department of Agriculture, you can help your preschooler grow up into a healthy adult by introducing him to a healthy lifestyle. It recommends dividing the plate into four equal quarters – each of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The nutritional needs and food choice of one child differ from another. Your preschooler’s food intake depends on a number of factors, including age, growth, and appetite.
- Toddlers need little more fat compared to older children and adults. Their healthy diet should emphasize more on fat and less on fiber. Eating the right fats can provide your toddler’s body with many benefits, such as for the brain, eye, and nerve development. Nuts, avocado, seeds, olive oil, salmon, and non-hydrogenated margarine are some of the key sources of unsaturated or healthy fats. Fat should provide 25-35% of daily calories for teens. Ideally, the percentage of calories from fat required by a child depends on their age. Kids aged 1-3 years need 30-40% of calories from fat and those between 4 and 18 years should get 25-35% from fat.
- When cooking for a preschooler, you may want to add some amount of butter or oil. Read the label of products and try to choose those that are trans fat-free.
- Include unsaturated fats into your family’s meals. A dash of flax seeds on cereals, nut butter on toast, avocado on sandwiches are great ideas to introduce healthy fats in your family’s diet.
- A diet comprising carbs, protein, fat, omega 3 and 6, vitamins, minerals, and fiber will provide toddlers with adequate amounts of nutrients and energy.
Healthy Eating for Preschoolers: The Regimen Starts With Breakfast
Your toddler’s healthy eating menu should also emphasize on eating at the same time every day. This will help make eating a regular ritual at home. When it becomes a ritual, your toddler will feel hungry at the same time. When they are hungry, it is the right time to feed them healthy food.
It is a good idea to start your child’s day with a balanced breakfast. Unlike with older kids and adults, a toddler’s breakfast doesn’t need to be the biggest meal. Their stomachs are still small, and they need small portions. However, preschoolers need snacks as a power booster at regular intervals throughout the day.
Whole grain foods can be too filling for a preschooler. So you may want to give them a mix of white and wholegrain bread and cereals.
Healthy Eating for Preschoolers Should Include a Midmorning Snack
A nutritious snack is all that a child needs to get his constant supply of nutrients. Serve snacks at least 2 hours before lunch. Avoid processed foods and sweets, including sweetened beverages. Make sure the snack represents at least two food groups. This means you may want to combine proteins with fiber-rich carbs or dairy with fruits and vegetables. Options are galore when it comes to combining food groups. The idea is to serve a nutritious snack, which could be in the form of a pineapple paired with cottage cheese or whole grain cereal with milk. Or you may try mixing yogurt with banana, milk, and strawberry for a nutritious snack for preschoolers.
Healthy Eating for Preschoolers: Importance of Afternoon Mealtime
For lunch, your toddler needs a different serving. Choose the ingredients from other food groups that remain untouched thus far. If he had a serving of proteins and fruit for breakfast, you might want to choose carbs and fats for lunch. It is a good idea to serve whole-grain bread with mashed avocado along with cooked peas.
Too much juice between meals is not recommended, as it can easily create a feeling of fullness. As a result, they may try to skip meals altogether.
Healthy Eating for Preschoolers: Afternoon Snack A Must
As the day goes on, your toddler needs a dose of his afternoon snack to keep his energy level high. Serve him a snack two to three hours after the meal. Make sure the snack time is the same every day. This will help him prevent snacking mindlessly. You may want to serve a few cubes of cheddar cheese with thin apple slices. Even a hard-boiled egg makes a great afternoon snack after lunch.
Healthy Eating for Preschoolers: Make Dinner Mealtime Family Time
Often the last meal of the day, a dinner is that time when the whole family sits at the dining table for a family meal. However, since toddlers are usually tired after a long day full of activities, they tend to eat least. You do not need to push them to eat when they say they are full because often children regulate their intake when provided with a nutritious and structured meal plan each day. Trust your toddler’s appetite.
Evening Snack Optional for Preschoolers Healthy Eating Regimen
Since most kids usually hit the bed after dinner, an evening snack may not have much importance in the healthy eating regimen of toddlers. However, some kids may need a snack before bedtime. This is the time he needs a snack that is easy on his tiny tummy. A small cup of milk may be a good evening snack idea. Your toddler may not need an evening snack if there are fewer than two hours between dinner and bedtime.
Preschoolers Healthy Eating Regimen and Physical Activity Go Together
While a good diet is quintessential to a child’s healthy regimen, you cannot ignore the importance of physical activity for a child’s health. A child who enjoys a combination of healthy eating and exercising regimen is more likely to be healthy. Follow these tips on healthy eating for preschoolers, and you can help them pick good food habits.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com