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Parents feeding pre-schoolers

The rapid growth that characterises infancy, tapers-off quickly during the pre-school years. Because of this, eating habits change, and typically children will have a decreased appetite and eat relatively little. The pre-school years are the best time to lay the foundation for setting healthy eating habits and following a healthy pattern of living and eating, every effort should be made to expose your children to regular physical activity as well as nutritious food.

It is important to remember that parents and caregivers are seen as role models and if you eat and enjoy a variety of foods, your children will be more open to trying and eating different foods too. A good eating principle to remember at mealtimes is the ‘one-bite rule’ – children must take at least one bite of each of the foods presented to them.

How to help your child choose nutritious foods:

  • Serve new foods regularly and repeat exposure to them.
  • If the child observes the parents enjoying their food, there is a good chance that the child will accept the same foods in time. Remember, it may take up to 15 tries before the child willingly accepts the food, success will only happen through perseverance.
  • AVOID NAGGING, FORCING OR BRIBING. This kind of behaviour is strongly discouraged as it will only exacerbate any resistance or eating difficulties. Do not overreact when the child refuses to eat. Doing so may give the child the idea that eating is a means of getting attention or manipulating a situation. Children will never starve themselves to the point of harming themselves.
  • Children are able to master their eating when adults provide opportunities to learn, so give support for exploration, and limit inappropriate behavior.

How much your child should be eating

Food group No. of servings 1-2 years 3-4 years 5-6 years
Milk, yoghurt, cheese 3 ½-¾  cup ¾ cup 1 cup
Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts 2 or more 1-2 tablespoons 3-4 tablespoons ½ cup
Vegetables 3 or more 1-2 tablespoons 3-4 tablespoons ½ cup
Fruit 2 or more 1-2 tablespoons or ½ cup juice 3-4 tablespoons or ½ cup juice ½ cup or ½ cup juice
Bread, cereal, rice and pasta 6 or more ½ slice or cup 1 slice or ½ cup 1 slice or ¾ cup

Remember: Children have small stomachs. Offering them six small meals works better than limiting them to three meals a day. Sticking to three meals a day is merely social custom and offers no nutritional advantage.

A Sample Daily Menu Plan

Breakfast

Starch group (1):      ¾ cup cooked oats
Milk group (½):       ½ cup milk
1-2 teaspoons honey

Snack

Meat group (1):       1 hard cooked egg
Starch group (1):      1 slice whole-wheat bread with 1 teaspoon margarine
Fruit group (1):        ½ cup orange juice filled with soda water up to 1 glass

Lunch

Meat group (1):       4 tablespoons / 60 g grilled chicken, cut into cubes
Starch group (1):      4 tablespoons rice
Veggie group (1):     4 tablespoons cooked peas
Milk group (½):       ½ cup milk with Nesquick

Snack

Milk group (½):       20g cheese
Starch group (1):      4 Provitas with a little margarine
Milk group (½):       ½ cup milk

Supper

Meat group (1):       50 g Mince, cooked
Starch group (1):      4 tablespoons mashed potato with 1 teaspoon margarine
Veggie group (1):     4 tablespoons cooked carrots cut into strips

Snack

Fruit group (1):        ½ a banana
Starch group (1):      2 oatmeal cookies without raisins