Preschool aged children are primed and ready to form healthy eating habits they can carry with them their whole lives. But how much, and what kinds, of food should we be giving them? Preschoolers thrive best on small meals and snacks as their metabolisms are going fast to keep up with their growth during these years. That’s why we serve two snacks here at school as well as have a time for lunch.
By this age your child should be eating the same foods as the rest of the family, with an emphasis on healthy choices! They are ready to learn table manners, proper eating etiquette, and to try new foods. The most important way they learn all of these things is through your example! Try new foods with your child and demonstrate sitting nicely at the table, waiting to be excused, saying please and thank you, etc.
What about those picky eaters? Most children need to try foods several times before accepting it, so don’t give up on those peas! It’s true that some foods may take longer than others to be accepted, and some may never be accepted at all. A good rule of thumb is three bites per food (forcing them to finish everything when they are full may cause more complicated eating and food issues down the road). At Preschool we encourage our most resistant eaters to at least lick the food--sounds silly, but it can help them begin to overcome the fear of new foods in a small, playful way!
Monkey see, monkey do! If you want your child to choose healthy foods you also need to make that choice yourself. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and dairy are all food groups that should make a regular appearance on your child’s plate, as well as your own! Of course there is a time and place for treats as well—just sparingly.
Please keep these nutritional habits in mind as you pack lunches, make breakfasts, and serve dinner. Remember, your little preschoolers are growing rapidly and we want to build them up strong and healthy!