Nutrition for Preschoolers and toddlers
Updated: Apr 1
It is crucial to establish a foundation of optimal nutrition and healthy eating habits to children in their toddler and preschool years as they are young and remember from daily habits and impressions by parents and school environment.
At 1-2 years old, your child’s digestive system would be sufficiently mature for your child to consume the same type of food as you. Please prepare your child’s food with appropriate food seasoning such as salt and sugar. It is good to continue to give your child with breast milk, if your child has been drinking formula milk, you may choose to switch him to whole milk if you wish. Variety of fruits and vegetables is very important as it will ensure your child has sufficient vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fibre. Drinking enough water is also crucial to prevent dehydration. However please remember children do not need as much food as adults, please listen to their cues, if they said they have done, do not force your child to eat more than he needs to. If you are worried about your children’s intake, do consult your pediatrician.
It is important to create an pleasant and enjoyable experience during meal times, to ensure your child has a good appetite for main meals, do not allow too much beverages eg milk, water or juice, and avoid food with little nutritional value eg sugar-coated cereal, potato chips, candies, chocolate bars, soft drinks, these food will take up tummy space leaving the children too full for proper meals.
Making a meal a pleasant experience
As a parent, you might have to evaluate your own relationship with food. Are you overly concerned with nutritional intake, a picky eater yourself or you consume too much junk food? As difficult as it may be, try not to pass on your extreme preoccupation with foods to your children.
When possible, mealtimes should be enjoyed by everyone eating together. Whilst this might not be possible when baby is younger (for example, under six months old), it is important to be able to see and hear the family interacting during meal times.
Be a good role model, sit at the table with your children, especially young children need supervision to prevent choking risk when eating.
Do not use food as a punishment or as a bribe, this may lead to development of an unhealthy relationship with food in the long run. Also, do not use food to avoid conflict. As a baby grows into a child, avoid using food as a pacifier.
Respect your children’s preference of food, allow them to choose or reject choice of food, do be creative in preparation and presentation of food. Do not give up after one rejection, do offer various preparations of the same ingredient to pique their interest. Persistence does pay off and your baby will be less likely to become a picky eater as a result.
Offer a wide variety of food from all food groups e.g. carbohydrates, proteins and fibers. For example when offering vegetables, offer a wide variety such as leafy vegetables eg spinach, cruciferous vegetables eg broccoli, root vegetable such as carrot, beetroot etc.
Make mealtime enjoyable by not rushing them hence allow ample time for meals, prepare child size utensils to all ease of use by your child. Remember, some of the most pleasant memories of life for children come from the times shared around the dinner table as a family.
Involve your children in the meal planning process- from writing down a grocery list to actual shopping at the supermarket, allow them to partake in tasks which are age-appropriate such as washing the vegetables or peeling the egg shells off hard-boiled eggs. This will allow them to develop a sense of pride and eagerness to try their own creations.
To stimulate healthy eating habits, children should be active and be spending sufficient time in nature and outdoors. Schedule meal times and other activities properly, avoid any snack within an hour and a half of a meal as it will affect their appetite. If you see poor eating habits, cut back on the amount of snacks or remove them altogether.
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