About Nutrition for Preschoolers
Some may be fussy eaters. All start developing likes and dislikes for food and some children at this age can eat quite a lot.
It is important to remember that while your toddlers brain is busy growing, gathering and processing information, their rate of weight gain is slowing and this may affect their appetite. They need to eat little and often, some days not eating much at all – other times eating constantly! We cannot force our children to eat – that is a losing battle and can harm their natural sense of appetite control. It is more useful to look at what variety and quantities of food they are eating over a long period of about a month.
Try not to become anxious about mealtimes and how your toddler behaves around food. There will be mess! This is natural and is a vital process of exploration of the properties of food; what it smells like, what the texture feels like, does it roll, bounce, splat or crunch! It may take many times of familiarising a particular food for a child to accept it. They are naturally cautious about new things – and this goes for food too.
Be aware that portion sizes for toddlers at mealtimes are about the volume of the size of their own fist. Their need for milk is beginning to drop. If they are consuming more than 600ml a day this may be affecting their appetite for solid food.
It is a time for a massive increase in language and expression of their preferences. Your pre-schooler is now able to ask for all sorts of things and may be upset and grumpy when their requests are denied! “What would you like for lunch?” “I want lollies!” – If you don’t what to know the answer – don’t ask the question! Give choices, but only foods that you have decided upon. Do not feel mean that you withhold ‘sweet or junk foods from your child – you are doing them a big favour – it’s called ‘junk’ food for a reason! Of course we cannot live in a completely nutritionally ‘pure’ environment all the time – as long as your child is provided with healthy, wholegrain, freshly prepared foods 80% of the time, the rest of the time we can relax about their intake.
At this stage we are creating positive habits and attitudes around foods and this includes good role modelling by the adults around them. “Don’t give me broccoli – you know I hate it” – will be influencing your child in the same way we model how to cross the road safely!
It is a great time to encourage your child to help you in the kitchen, setting the table and making simple recipes. Kneading bread, putting topping on pizza and arranging the salad are all things your pre-schooler can manage – again there will be mess! – but it is a good investment in their future skills and interest in preparing food. Grow herbs and vegetables; let them choose a new fruit or vegetable when shopping; talk about where food comes from, all these activities build positive feelings around food and eating.
Other information you may find useful
When: 30 Mar, 9:30am
Birth to 4 months: A 5-week series of workshops for parents with a newborn baby. Each workshop covers a wide range of topics about you and your new baby and provides the opportunity to meet and connect with other new parents in your local area.