Preschool-aged children (ages 4 to 5) are still developing their eating habits and need encouragement to eat healthy meals and snacks. These children are eager to learn, especially from other people and will often imitate eating behaviors of adults. They need supervision at mealtime as they are still working on chewing and swallowing skills.
The following are some helpful mealtime hints for preschool-aged children:
- Prepare meals, provide regularly scheduled snacks, and limit unplanned eating.
- Poor behavior at mealtime should not be allowed. Focus on eating, not playing with food or playing at the dinner table.
- Keep offering a variety of foods. Have the attitude that, sooner or later, your child will learn to eat most all foods.
- Make mealtime as pleasant as possible. Do not put pressure on your child to eat, or force your child to "clean" his/her plate. This may lead overeating which can cause your child to gain too much weight. Children will be hungry at mealtime if snacks have been limited during the day.
- Provide examples of healthy eating habits. Preschoolers mimic what they see their parents doing. If you eat a lot of junk food, your child will not learn to eat healthy.
Healthy food choices
The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food guide pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 to 6 years of age. Choose the proper number of servings from each food group for your child each day.