To maintain a healthy weight and develop normally, preschoolers need to be physically active and eat a well-balanced diet. Luckily, children this age are eager to learn, and often imitate the behavior of adults, making it the perfect age to explore healthy food options, and develop lifelong healthy eating habits.
At home, you can set a good example at mealtimes, and ensure that your children get nutritious meals with snacks, but what happens at school? Are you certain that your child’s preschool menu offers healthy meal options?
What Should My Preschool Child Be Eating?
Preschool children are still growing and developing, so it’s vital that they eat a well-balanced diet from an early age. Healthy eating habits are taught, so parents and child-carers need to know that preschool children need healthy food from the following food groups:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Healthy Fats
Fruit And Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are very versatile food groups that provide vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. They come in various colors and textures and can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be introduced into the main meal, or as a snack.
A preschooler should be eating at least two fruit, and three vegetable portions per day.
Grains with a low glycemic index allow for longer-lasting energy, and the child feels fuller for longer. Bread, pasta, noodles, couscous, rice, corn, and barley are good examples of grains. A preschooler should be eating six portions of this food group per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children older than two years should switch to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are good examples of this food group. A preschooler should be consuming between two and three portions of dairy per day.
Healthy fats are vital for normal growth and assist in the development of the brain and nervous system. Nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados, and fatty fish are some good examples of healthy fats. Preschoolers should consume three to four portions of healthy fats per day.
Crucial for the growth of bones, muscles, and organ systems, proteins also help to repair and maintain vital tissues. Proteins are a source of iron, and also provide vital vitamins like zinc, magnesium, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, and vitamin E.
Found in lean meat, chicken, eggs, lentils, chickpeas, and nuts, preschoolers should eat two to three portions of protein per day.
Foods Pre-School Aged Children Should Avoid
Parents and caregivers need to instill good eating habits in children as early as possible. Avoiding bad food choices will encourage the development of good eating habits that will continue into adulthood. Some foods to avoid include:
“Fast” Or Processed Foods
Processed “fast” foods contain very little fiber and are usually high in salt, saturated fat, and sugar. Children that eat predominantly fast food, usually suffer from childhood obesity and develop diabetes. Foods included in this group are burgers, hotdogs, and pizza.
Children can easily get into the healthy habit of drinking sweet drinks instead of water. Drinks that are high in sugar have little nutritional value and contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. Sweet drinks that should be avoided include:
- Fruit juices
- Sports energy drinks
- Flavored water
Developing Healthy Eating Habits
Parents and caregivers need to instill a healthy relationship with food from a very young age. Failure to do so could result in the child developing an unhealthy association with food, and debilitating eating disorders. Sitting around the table is the perfect opportunity for parents to:
- Catch up on the day’s activities and spend time bonding with the whole family. Ideally, mealtimes should not be rushed.
- Introduce a wide variety of foods, and explain the benefits of each food group.
South Florida’s Best Family-Orientated Daycare And Preschool
Pre-school children are at the crucial stage where their bodies are growing and developing. When your child eats two meals a day at school, you want to be sure that the meals and snacks are healthy.
At Parkland Children’s Academy, we strive to provide a nurturing environment where children can learn and grow. Call us at 954-688-5877 to visit our facility and take a tour of our preschool.