If you have a picky preschooler or a voracious toddler, you are probably wondering if he is getting everything he needs every day. Children ages 2 to 5 can be fickle eaters and busy players, with little interest in getting their required nutrients each day. If you want to make sure your preschooler is eating enough of the right things each day, put together a meal plan.
Don’t wait until your child cries for a meal, when his hunger has kicked in and blood sugar has dropped, to serve a meal. Think ahead of time and plan your meals for the same times every day. Serve at least three meals, with snacks in between, so your child never gets too hungry. Encourage your child to eat until he is full but not overly stuffed. Since you have another meal or snack coming, you needn’t overfeed him.
In addition to nutrients, your child gains knowledge as he eats, trying a variety of new foods. Keep his meals colorful and filled with fruits and vegetables to expose him to many new things. Preschoolers tend to love their favorites and can get stuck in a rut.
Meals should be warm opportunities to sit, talk and connect. This pleasant atmosphere will encourage your preschooler to eat what’s on his plate and try new things. Don’t use food as an incentive or punishment. Meals should be family times, devoid of unavoidable drama. Make dessert an unattached option and treat at some meals. Don’t bribe preschoolers with dessert. Don’t force them to finish their meals. Encourage them to learn their hunger and satisfaction sensations. Remember, more meals are coming.
Preschoolers aren’t old enough or mature enough to make nutrition choices for themselves. If given the choice, preschoolers will have days filled with candy, ice cream and hot dog meals. Whenever possible, create meals of lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. If you choose foods that are naturally crammed with nutrients, you can be sure kids will be getting the vitamins and minerals, fiber and fats they need.
Make It Compelling
The easiest way to make preschool meals exciting would be to cover them in sugar, but that would negate the nutrient. Let you preschooler help plan meals. Take him to a farmer’s market or produce section. Let him touch, smell and pick out new fruits and vegetables. Let him help in the kitchen, and he will be more inclined to try the meal. If he turns his nose up at a dish, don’t be afraid to introduce it again later at another meal.