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Eating for the Time of your Life - Feeding Preschool Children

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Dipping foods - Make mealtimes fun and interesting activities for children. Letting them dip food in tubs is a good way to increase the amount of vegetables they eat. © Provided by DKBooks Dipping foods - Make mealtimes fun and interesting activities for children. Letting them dip food in tubs is a good way to increase the amount of vegetables they eat.

Low-fat-milk drinks - A healthier alternative to sugar-filled juices, low-fat milk is rich in calcium and fortified with vitamins A and D.

Photo: Dinner - Meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce with broccoli is a popular meal for many 3-year-olds. It is rich in protein, vitamins C and K, iron, and lycopene. © Provided by DKBooks Dinner - Meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce with broccoli is a popular meal for many 3-year-olds. It is rich in protein, vitamins C and K, iron, and lycopene.

Photo: Fruit and fiber - Adding chopped, fresh fruit to a dessert is a good way of getting extra nutrients and fiber into your child’s diet, especially if he or she is a picky eater. © Provided by DKBooks Fruit and fiber - Adding chopped, fresh fruit to a dessert is a good way of getting extra nutrients and fiber into your child’s diet, especially if he or she is a picky eater.

Finger foods - Try serving dahl (mashed lentils) or hummus (ground chickpeas) in a bowl with cut-up pita bread or vegetables for dipping.

Photo: Low-fat-milk drinks - A healthier alternative to sugar-filled juices, low-fat milk is rich in calcium and fortified with vitamins A and D. © Provided by DKBooks Low-fat-milk drinks - A healthier alternative to sugar-filled juices, low-fat milk is rich in calcium and fortified with vitamins A and D.

Dinner - Meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce with broccoli is a popular meal for many 3-year-olds. It is rich in protein, vitamins C and K, iron, and lycopene.

Photo: Finger foods - Try serving dahl (mashed lentils) or hummus (ground chickpeas) in a bowl with cut-up pita bread or vegetables for dipping. © Provided by DKBooks Finger foods - Try serving dahl (mashed lentils) or hummus (ground chickpeas) in a bowl with cut-up pita bread or vegetables for dipping.

Dipping foods - Make mealtimes fun and interesting activities for children. Letting them dip food in tubs is a good way to increase the amount of vegetables they eat.

© Provided by DKBooks

Fruit and fiber - Adding chopped, fresh fruit to a dessert is a good way of getting extra nutrients and fiber into your child’s diet, especially if he or she is a picky eater.

Feeding Preschool Children

Between the ages of two and five, children need plenty of snacks.

After the rapid growth of early infancy, toddlers’ growth rate slows, and they tend to eat less, although appetite fluctuations are normal and correspond to growth spurts. Therefore, your child may seem very hungry one day and not show any interest in food at all the next.

Learn to recognize when your child is hungry and offer healthy, appetizing meals, one small snack between meals, and a piece of fresh fruit before bedtime. Keep in mind that giving your child too many drinks between meals can also fill up his or her small stomach very quickly so, do not overdo it. This also applies for serving sizes; children cannot manage adult-sized portions, so try to use smaller, child-friendly plates and offer smaller amounts of food.


Giving the right food

Because appetites vary from child to child and from day to day, you may worry about your child’s eating habits. For example, sometimes he or she may want to eat the same foods for every meal, and at other times that same food may get rejected outright. Inconsistency when it comes to mealtimes is very common, so offer your child a nutritious selection of food, try to remain patient and let your child choose what he or she wants to eat within reason. Over the course of a week, most children’s diets will balance out. If your child is a picky eater you may need to develop some strategies for dealing with this .


Monitoring your child

By monitoring your child’s growth and eating habits and looking for signs or symptoms of nutritional deficiency, you can tell if he or she is getting the proper amounts of nutrients. Children who are eating enough will be growing at the appropriate rate. Growth charts can be kept at home to help you track your child’s height and weight for age.

It is difficult to detect deficiencies on your own, so see a dietitian or doctor for an assessment. Generally, only severe deficiencies can be physically seen, which is why regular wellness visits are vital.

If you are concerned about your child’s habits, record a “food diary” of everything he or she eats and drinks each day for a week. Record the type of food, its brand, and the amount eaten. Discuss the week’s intake with a pediatric dietitian.

Computer analysis programs may be used to show you which of the food groups your child is getting enough of, the amount of calories consumed, and which, if any, nutritional deficiencies your child is at risk of developing. One of the most common nutrients lacking in a child’s diet is iron, especially among picky eaters, so try to give your child plenty of iron-rich foods, such as meat, dried fruits, poultry, and legumes .


Serving sizes: 3–5 years

For 3–5-year-olds, the serving sizes of vegetables and protein sources are larger than those for 1–2-year-olds. For each food group, the daily number of servings and examples of a serving are shown here:

6 servings of grains and their products. Examples of a serving include 1 slice whole-grain bread and 1/2 cup cooked rice.

3 servings of vegetables. For example, 2 tbsp peas or carrots.

2 servings of fruits. Examples include 1 whole fruit, such as an apple or peach, or 1/2 banana.

2–3 servings of dairy products. Examples of a serving include 4floz (120ml) low-fat milk or low-fat yogurt and 1oz (28g) cheese.

2–3 servings of protein sources. Examples include 2oz (55g) meat, chicken, fish, or tofu, 1 vegetable burger, or 2 tbsp peanut butter.


What can I offer my preschool child?

Preschool children need more grains, vegetables, and protein sources as they get older. Give them low-fat milk and dairy products instead of whole milk as long as they are not underweight. The serving sizes need to be increased for the protein and vegetable groups. Children at this age need three meals and at least two snacks during the day and sometimes a bedtime snack. To prevent a child from eating too much and gaining excess weight, try to serve fresh fruit for snacks. Provide water with at least one meal and one snack rather than fruit juice as it supplies additional calories and may reduce a child’s appetite for the next meal. Listen to your child’s appetite and use smaller plates and portions than you use for yourself.


Sample menu: 5 years

Breakfast

1/2 cup low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and 1/2 banana, sliced


Snack

Apple with a slice of cheese and 8floz (240ml) water


Lunch

Turkey slices on bread, carrots, and 4floz (120ml) low-fat yogurt

4–6 graham crackers, mandarin oranges in own juice, with 4floz (120ml) low-fat milk


Dinner

3 meatballs in tomato sauce, 1/2 cup noodles, broccoli, and tomatoes with 8floz (240 ml) water

1/2 cup oat cereal with low-fat milk


Making food interesting to eat

An excellent way to get young children to eat nutritious food is to make meals and snacks fun and interesting and let them help you prepare them. Try some of the following tips to get your child to look forward to eating at mealtimes:

Cut sandwiches, pizza, meats, and pancakes into small shapes. By making all the choices nutritious, your child will be eating healthy no matter which food he or she chooses.

Let your child have fun immersing foods in a tasty dip. Some possibilities include tofu dip, cream cheese thinned with juice or milk, puréed vegetables or fruits with ranch or French dressing, yogurt, and cottage cheese. You can make cottage cheese more interesting by adding some pieces of pineapple.

Let your child help you prepare food. Carefully teach him or her how to use a small blunt butter knife to spread cheese spread, peanut butter, and fruit concentrate onto crackers, toast, or rice cakes. You can try filling celery stalks with peanut butter or putting some sliced cucumber or steamed spinach on a slice of toast spread with low-fat cream cheese.

Create meals or snacks with your child. Make fresh-fruit or vegetable kabobs or smoothies. Making mini-pizzas is a great way to add variety with healthy toppings, while allowing your child to be creative in the process. Must-have ingredients for pizzas include low-fat mozzarella cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, chicken, tuna, and pineapple chunks .

Most children love fruit and will eventually ask for it if you introduce it on a regular basis.

Try to offer healthy desserts as much as possible. These include cut-up apples and oranges, canned fruit in its own juice, and fruit salad. Other healthy desserts include those made from low-fat milk, sorbet, low-fat ice cream, or angel food cake. Again, you can garnish these with fresh or frozen fruit.


Healthy eating habits

To encourage healthy eating habits in your preschool children, follow the tips outlined here. Do not worry if you can’t do everything at once; just adopting one tip at a time will make a difference to your children’s eating habits.

Serve fruits and vegetables every day, whether at mealtimes or as a snack. Canned fruits, such as pineapple, peaches, or mandarin oranges in their own juice can be kept in the cabinet, quickly opened, and any leftovers stored in the refrigerator.

Provide water or low-fat milk with meals and snacks.

Do not be afraid to say no to junk food, chips, soda, candy, or sweets, especially if your child has already eaten some that day.

Serve small portions on small plates and in small cups. Giving too much and insisting that your child “cleans his or her plate” will lead to overeating and will not help your child regulate his or her own eating habits.

Do not reward with dessert. Enticing children to eat all of their dinner to get dessert will only make dessert more important than the main course.

When your child says that he or she has finished, ask him or her to take the plate to the sink and return to the table and sit with the family. Use arts and crafts or sticker books to keep the children entertained while the adults finish their meal. You can also adopt this strategy when you eat out together as a family.

Keep a cabinet full of healthy snacks for when your child is hungry.

Limit TV and video and computer games to less than two hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle will lead to excess weight gain (and overweight children).

Encourage your child to be active, and exercise regularly as a family.

Try to dine as a family when possible.


Being a role model

As a parent, you are responsible for setting a good example for your children when it comes to establishing healthy eating habits. Children usually want to copy what you eat and drink at a very early age and will reach out to grab whatever you are eating or drinking. If you drink soda with meals, and eat in front of the television, your child will be likely to want to do the same. However, soda is not appropriate for children—it is too high in calories and displaces the much needed calcium that they should be getting from milk—and eating in front of the TV does not promote family bonding or socialization. Think about your own food habits and make a conscious effort to eat healthy, well-balanced meals as a family at a dining table without TV.


What to give children to drink

The healthiest drinks to give young children are low-fat milk and water. Other drinks, such as fruit juices and sodas, are high in sugar and can cause tooth decay. If you do give your child fruit juice, follow these tips:

Give your child juice from a cup as part of a meal or snack.

Always dilute juice with water because it has a high sugar content.

Limit juice given to 2–5-year-olds to 4–6floz (120–180ml) per day.

Encourage your child to eat fresh fruit in place of fruit juice. This will increase your child’s intake of fiber.

Do not give your child unpasteurized fruit juices as they may contain bacteria.

Limit any drink that does not contain 100 percent fruit juice because these drinks generally contain sweeteners, artificial flavors, or fortifiers.


Keeping teeth healthy

Sugary and starchy foods that stick to teeth feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. To ensure that your child’s teeth develop properly and remain healthy, give a variety of foods to provide all the necessary nutrients for tooth development. Limit the amount of sugary drinks and foods, such as cookies and candies, that you provide. Good, teeth-friendly snacks include cubes of cheddar cheese, yogurt, fresh fruit, and vegetable sticks with dips. In addition, fluoride, present in many water supplies, helps protect teeth. Make sure your child has regular dental checkups and brushes his or her teeth in the morning and before going to bed, when teeth begin to erupt.


Managing the picky eater

There are many strategies to help you overcome picky eating. If you are having problems with your child’s eating habits, try following the tips here:

First of all, be patient and sit down at the table with your child and have a conversation about his or her day.

Offer a variety of bite-sized foods in order to allow your child to pick and choose the most appetizing and thus expand his or her diet.

Presenting food in small shapes to make it look more appealing can often do the trick.

Offer your child foods that pack lots of nutrition in small doses, such as avocados, broccoli, whole grains such as rice, cheese, eggs, fish, kidney beans, yogurt, pasta, peanut butter, squash, sweet potatoes, and tofu.

Do not turn each meal into a battle if your child goes on a “food jag,” in which he or she insists on eating the same foods over and over again at every meal. Offer a healthy selection of food at each meal and your child will eventually tire of the same food. The less pressure you impose, the more likely it is that your child will pass through this stage without problems.

Do not try to force-feed your child or hover over him or her worrying about what he or she will or will not eat.

If your child does not like different foods to be touching one another, serve them on separate plates.

Do not become a “short-order cook” by always making your child something else if he or she refuses to eat.

Do not give junk food if your child refuses to eat his or her meal.

Do not punish your child for not eating a particular food; it is much better to congratulate him or her for what he or she does eat.


Preschool child who eats only white food

Name Jodie

Age Three years


Problem

Jodie will not eat anything green or red and tends to eat the same foods every day for lunch and dinner. She mostly eats white foods, such as cheese, yogurt, and macaroni.


Lifestyle

This toddler’s mother is concerned that her child’s diet is very limited and she has become a picky eater. Jodie’s mother is also concerned about whether her daughter should take a multivitamin supplement.

Although her appetite varies from day to day, Jodie’s dinner usually consists of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce at least five nights a week. Sometimes, she eats pizza dipped in applesauce, but she has not been open to trying any foods that the family is eating, such as chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, or vegetables. She does like some fruits, such as canned mandarin oranges, fresh strawberries, and bananas. In addition, she often takes only a few bites of whatever foods she is offered and announces that she is done. Jodie rarely finishes what is on her plate and frequently returns to the kitchen after an hour or so asking for an ice pop or other sweets.


Advice

It is normal for children at this age to have small appetites, so they may appear to be picky eaters and may need to eat every few hours. Young children often go on “food jags,” preferring to eat the same food every day and then, after a week or so, move to other foods or food groups. Jodie’s mother should continue to offer the foods she likes, and avoid forcing her to “clean her plate.” It is best to let her regulate her own intake and avoid bribing her with dessert to get her to finish what is on her plate. If she usually leaves food, then Jodie’s mother should serve smaller portions. If Jodie continues to say she is not hungry, her mother should then avoid giving juice between meals and serve water with meals. She can also try to introduce new foods at the beginning of the meal when Jodie is hungry and tell her her macaroni is still cooking.

Eventually Jodie will eat a more varied diet, but as long as she grows normally and does not lose weight she is eating enough. However, since her diet is so limited and she avoids vegetables, she may benefit from a “complete” vitamin and mineral supplement that contains iron. If fluoride is not in the water supply, her doctor can prescribe a fluoride supplement for her.

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