Preschool : Nutrition
Updated: 2 days ago
• Pre-Schoolers (3-5years)
Preschoolers tend to have two common preferences – they appreciate routine in daily life and they have a preference for simplicity. Many children may prefer simply prepared foods which they can easily identify. Children of this age generally prefer mild-tasting food or snacks they can manage themselves such as sliced fruit or veggies they can eat with their hands or soup which they can drink from a mug.
Preschoolers are busy exploring their environments, testing their independence and are learning at a rapid rate. During these Preschool years, food will take on a more complex meaning for your child. Between the ages of 3 and 5 children experience a period of rapid social, intellectual and emotional growth. They are also developing their association of food to be more than just ‘eating’. Foods will have specific meanings as per your child’s association with them – sweets being a reward for good behavior is one example. The early impressions children have of their various associations with food directly affects their life-long attitude towards food.
Getting your preschooler to accept new foods and try new textures and tastes, takes time and patience. Your toddler may find comfort with familiar foods, but they are willing to try new things. Food fads at this age are common, Preschoolers may prefer particular food to be prepared in the same way for a period of time, then once they have experienced it, they may reject it. One idea is to provide mostly foods they already know and enjoy, paired with one or two new additions. Caregivers are encouraged to provide a variety of nutritious foods, and allow the child to select the amounts needed from these foods.
Blog – Fussy Eaters
Blog – Food Allergies
What to Feed your Pre-Schooler
Preschoolers are generally able to eat the same food as the rest of the family, provided it is healthy and low in salt and fat content, is easy for them to feed themselves, and isn’t overly spicy if they prefer milder meals. They require the same basic food groups listed below in ‘Basic Nutritional Needs and Suggestions’, but the variety may have expanded with their tastes and preferences. It is generally advised that children over the age of two follow the same low fat, low saturated fats and low cholesterol daily diet as an adult. This doesn’t mean you must eliminate all fat content from their diets, but you may wish to limit their consumption to an average of 30% or less of fat, 10% or less of saturated fat and less than 300mg of cholesterol per day.
Once your child commences childcare, life will take on a whole new routine. Regular intake of nutritious food throughout the day is vital to help children keep active and to assist their concentration while learning.
Your preschooler may still be a fussy eater, so continue to provide a wide variety to choose from in their meals and snacks, and allow your child to eat until they are full, while trying to avoid force or arguments.
Basic Nutritional Needs & Suggestions
Protein – essential for physical growth and helps develop strong and healthy children. Offer peas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, soybeans, eggs, fish, chicken, meat, milk, yoghurt and cheese.
Calcium – vital for building strong bones and teeth, promoting nerve and muscle function and converting food into energy. Offer milk, cheese, yoghurt, tofu (check the label as calcium content varies depending on the brand), spinach and leafy green and wholegrain breads.
Fruit & Vegetables – Nutrients, Minerals and Fibre which is vital for healthy bodies inside and out. Offer green veggies, carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, zucchini ….. the list goes on, the more the better!
Starchy Carbs – provides energy and high in fibre. The more fibre they contain, the slower they burn. Offer fibre-rich bread, quinoa, wholegrain or brown rice, couscous, pasta, corn bread, pancake, low sugar cereals and whole oats.
Unsaturated Fats – these ‘good’ fats play a vital role in building brain and nerve cells. They help children’s bodies produce good cholesterol, and aids in blood circulation. These fats are found in fish (tinned or fresh), avocado, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meat and cold-pressed vegetable oils such as olive, canola, sunflower or grapeseed.
Water – the cheapest and healthiest source of fluids. Most tap water is fortified with fluoride for strong teeth.
Suggested Daily Servings for a 3-5-year-old
- 3-4 serves wholegrain breads, cereals, rice pasta or noodles (1 serve = approx 500kJ)
- 1 1/2 serves fruit (1 serve = 150g/350kJ)
- 4 serves vegetables (1 serve = 75g/100-300kJ)
- ½-1 serve eggs, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, poultry, meat or fish (1 serve = 500-600kJ)
- 1 1/2 serves dairy – reduced fat where possible (1 serve = 500-600kJ)
How to Feed your Pre-Schooler
Your preschooler will be feeding themselves at this stage, but they still may rather snacks, which do not require utensils. Obviously many meals such as pasta, soup or porridge will be eaten with utensils but finger food snacks may still be preferred.
If your child is commencing childcare, you may begin to provide Lunchbox foods for your child, and getting them to eat all their meals and snacks while you are not present can be challenge in the beginning. This is why providing an exciting variety of food is vital to ensure they are interested in eating and getting the energy and nutrition they need for their action-packed days. See our Blog on our top Lunchbox ideas.
Blog – Lunchbox Ideas