Nutrition Tips for Pre-school Children
Whether a first-time, or experienced, parent-most adults realise the importance of encouraging good eating habits in young children. Their bodies have a lot of growing to do; so meals need to provide the necessary nutrition for good health.
Eating should be fun!Avoid making mealtimes a battleground by enjoying relaxed meals together and encourage your youngster to get involved in food preparation-even if it does take a lot longer and create more messby doing so. Food preparation, eating and even clearing up can be identified as happy, together, times that link food with sociable activity and pleasure.
Healthy SnacksWith the temptation of junk food all around, it can be difficult to be disciplined about eating healthyfood; particularly if you are in a hurry. Nutritious foods should get a positive response from you, the role model, without making a child feel guilty if they eat other types of less nutritious food now and then.
Children do have likes and dislikes; never force them to eat food they clearly do not enjoy or expect them to eat everything you give them when they are clearly not very hungry. Keep calm, serve little and often portions and don’t worry! It is perfectly normal for appetites to fluctuate.
Keep a good supply of fresh fruits, raw carrots, chunks of cucumber and cheese at home. These are useful snacking foods that won’t do your child’s appetite any harm between meals.It is a good idea to keep some packets of dried fruits in the car, in case you are running late and your child gets hungry. Stop and have an impromptu picnic together!
Unnecessary AdditionsIntroduce small amounts of different fruit and vegetables when your child is young; to encourage healthy eating habits and set a good example yourself! (This includes the addition of salt to your meals, extra sugar to drinks and foods and so on.) If children aren’t influenced by you to add unnecessary flavouring or seasoning, they’re less likely to develop the habit themselves.
How Much and When?Some days your little one will be like a bottomless pit and have a huge appetite, other days they may show no interest in eating much at all. Let their appetite guide you (consult your GP if you have any concerns though.)
Milk is an important energy food for growing bones and healthy teeth. Under-5’s need full fat milk, not skimmed or semi-skimmed milk; their fat and cholesterol intake is not an issue at this ageunless otherwise advised by relevant medical professionals. (Children with a milk or dairy intolerance, for example.) It is always preferable to bake or grill food, rather than fry it, whatever the age of the person!
Essential NutrientsCalcium: found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, and custard. It is alsopresent in tofu, sardines, pilchards, dried figs, watercress, prawns, parsley and anchovies.Children aged 1-3 need approximately 350mg per day.Children aged 10-12 months need approximately 525 mg per day because of the huge amounts of growth that take place during this first year.
Iron is another essential nutrient for pre-school children. Wholemeal bread, lamb chops, dried apricots, sardines, eggs, lentils, peas and spinach are among the foods that contain iron.Children aged 1-3 need about 6.9 mg per day.Children aged 10-12 months need about 7.8 per day.
Protein, for growth, repair and maintenance of cells: meat, poultry, fish, pulses, eggs, cheese and cereals are among the foods that provide this valuable nutrient.Children aged 1-3 need approximately 14.5g per day.Children aged 10-12 months, around 14.9g per day.
Make Food AppealingCut vegetables and fruit into sticks and different shapes and combine colours to interest children. They love to explore different textures-let them squish pieces of banana in their hands and dunk bread soldiers in their boiled egg. Baked beans on toast can provide an entertaining and nutritious meal! If they wear some of it as they eat, take that as a compliment...
At some stage, well-meaning relatives will buy sweets for your children, or they will see other children scoffing them. There’s no harm in allowing the occasional sweet after meals, as long as they are not regarded as treats, rewards, or bribes!With common sense and fun, you can encourage your child to develop healthy eating habits that willlast a lifetime.