Around the ages of 3-5 years, children are enrolled in pre-schools. This is an age of learning, playing and growing. Their nutrition plays an important role in supporting the numerous mental and physical activities that they are involved in. A balanced, nutritious diet is good for everyone no matter how old or young, but it is the most important for your preschooler.
A preschooler needs a diet consisting of all food groups, so that he can get carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, that are all very important and have their own functions.
Your child needs foods from all food groups for optimal nutrition.
Whole grains and cereals
These carbohydrates provide energy to your child’s body for basic functions as well as play, school work and more.
How Much: Children need around 4-5 servings of carbohydrates a day. Make sure that you serve carbohydrates in the main meals to meet this need.
Where to get them: Whole grain bread, rice, wheat, oats, ragi and potatoes.
Eggs, meat, dairy
Proteins form the building blocks for your child’s muscles. They also help with the formation of new cells and tissues, and healthy weight gain.
How much: 2 servings of protein are ideal - one serving could be 1 egg or a palm-sized piece of meat.
Where to get them: Beans, legumes, eggs, chicken, mutton and dairy products.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and Minerals are micronutrients, needed in smaller quantities but still are very important for growth and healthy development. They regulate functions like digestion, immunity and bone and muscle growth.
Where to get them: A variety of fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, poultry.
Healthy fats are essential for a growing, active preschooler’s brain and nervous system development. They are also responsible for providing energy.
How much: 1 or 2 servings a day - one serving could be a tablespoon of oil. Make sure you cook foods with minimal use of oil and avoid excessively oil food.
Where to get them: Nuts and peanut butter (if not allergic), dairy products like butter, milk and ghee, low-mercury fish like salmon.
Fruits and Vegetables
They provide vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, which keep your child’s body healthy and functioning smoothly.
How much: Children need 2-3 servings each of fruits and vegetables a day to meet their nutrient as well as fiber needs.
Where to get it: Fruits, vegetables, cereals like rice, oats, wheat, and other whole grains.
While planning your child’s meals and snacks, you should keep these needs in mind, making sure your child gets enough of all these nutrients everyday.
To make sure your child gets all these nutrients despite their small appetites, you should feed them nutrient-dense foods which give them a lot of nutrition even while eating small quantities - eggs, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and fortified cereals are some examples of such foods. For fussy eaters, this nutrition can be simplified and served as a simple and tasty bowl of Nestlé CEREGROW, which is a fortified cereal, fulfilling your child’s iron, vitamin, and calcium needs while also taking his small appetite into account. It’s also very easy to make - all you have to do is mix some warm water. It tastes good, and your picky child will enjoy it while getting his nutritional fix.
- Children need 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks a day.
- They have a smaller appetite and they will stop eating when full. So, make sure you include small amounts of different foods on their plate that will fulfil all their above needs.
- Fruits and vegetables should ideally be a major part of their diet.
They will also need 2 glasses of milk a day to fulfil calcium needs for their bone growth. Avoid sugary or high-fat foods and beverages.