During early childhood, a child’s tummy is as small as your fist. As a result, they have small appetites. They are also picky eaters as they are just being introduced to many new foods. During this stage, your little one needs the best nutrition to support their growth and development. To make up for the small appetites, snacking between meals becomes very important.
A preschooler should have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, which are balanced, nutrient-rich and varied, to ensure optimal nutrition. Snacks help fill a nutritional gap, which is why you should pay close attention to the nutritional values of kids’ snacks.
Most brain development occurs before the age of 5 years. Iron is an essential nutrient in this growth, and iron-rich foods should be present in meals and snacks. The best sources of iron for your preschooler include eggs, meat, spinach and leafy greens, chikoo, potatoes, beetroot, and fortified cereals.
At this age, children also need to be well-nourished for the health of their fast-growing bones. Vitamin D and Calcium-rich foods are important as they help in the growth and health of bones and teeth. To ensure that these needs are met, introduce foods like dairy products, vegetables, beans, and fortified foods like juice and cereals.
Due to their small appetite, your preschooler needs foods that will give them maximum nutrition from eating small portions. Nutrient-dense foods are ones that are rich in nutrient content, and they are a vital component of your little one’s meals and snacks at this stage. They help fill nutritional gaps and provide high-quality nutrition.
Some examples of nutrient-dense foods include whole grains, fortified foods, fruits and vegetables, dry fruits, eggs, meat, fish, pulses and dairy products. Nutrient-dense foods help fulfil your child’s micronutrient needs - Iron, Calcium and Vitamins.
Fortified cereal helps you feed your child food that is rich in energy and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Nestle CEREGROW for example, fulfils 25% of your little one’s daily iron, calcium and Vitamin A, C and D needs in just one bowl. As a fortified cereal, it combined the nutritious value of milk, fruits and grains, to give your child a healthy, tasty and nutrient-dense snack.
Pro-Tips For A Healthy Snack
1. Ensure that each snack has more than 1 food group. For example, fruit salad and yoghurt satisfy your child’s need for Vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein.
2. Make snacks look interesting. Cut fruits in cute shapes, or present vegetable sticks with interesting and healthy homemade dips like hummus, which are also nutrient-dense.
3. Snacks should be provided between meals with a minimum gap of 2 hours. Watch portion sizes so that the snack does not affect your child’s appetite at the next meal.
4. Avoid processed foods as they are high in unhealthy fats, added sugar and refined flour. They may satisfy calorie needs but they lack any nutrition.
5. Make sure that the options you give your child are all healthy, and allow them to choose from these. That way, no matter what your child chooses, it will be healthy and will add value to his snack.
Monitoring your preschooler’s nutrition during this period is of utmost importance as the nutrition in these early years impacts health, growth and development for the years to come. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is always the best solution to your nutritional queries.