This is finally the age when your young child will be able to sit at the dinner table with adults and enjoy most of the same foods. While you may still have to cut his or her food into smaller, bite-sized pieces, it's a wonderful landmark to reach with your child! Here are some guidelines on establishing healthy meal and snack habits with your young child.
Start off right with regular meals
Your child is now ready to have regular meals with the family, and many families have different eating styles. Whether you choose to have three square meals a day or opt for five or six smaller meals, now is the time to develop the same routine with your child. Talk about your family meal routine so your child knows what to expect.
Monitor their behavior between meals to see if a healthy snack is needed to get them through. Signs a child may be hungry include crankiness, fatigue and reports of feeling woozy or unwell. Teaching your child to eat only when he or she is truly hungry – and not when something simply tastes or smells good – will help them develop healthy eating habits and maintain a healthy weight throughout the course of their lives.
Educate them about foods
At the preschool age, children absorb knowledge like a sponge. Now is the perfect time to teach them the value of healthy foods as well as the dangers of eating too many unhealthy foods. You can use food flashcards, computer programs, learning games and educational television programming to teach them about the types of nutrients found in each type of food, and how those nutrients help to fuel their bodies and give them energy.
It's important for kids at this age to learn about moderation. Don't be afraid to let them eat that chocolate cake at the birthday party. Rather, help them understand why they should eat it – to celebrate and enjoy delicious foods with friends, of course! – and why they should limit their consumption.
Choose healthy snack foods
In addition to teaching your kids moderation when it comes to sweets and "junk foods," it's also important to teach them to enjoy and even prefer healthy snack foods, such as fruits, veggies and nuts. Fruits will give your preschooler that needed sugar spike between meals while also satisfying a sweet tooth. Veggies will provide essential vitamins and minerals. Nuts offer protein that will fuel your child's brain and help them stay full and focused until their next meal.
Children love finger foods such as baby carrots, celery sticks and apple slices. Adding a fun dip to the mix – such as peanut butter, honey or a delicious dressing – will help them interact with and enjoy their food even more. Looking for a salty carbohydrate? Pretzels dipped in peanut butter are a solid snack that will give your child the extra fuel he or she needs during that after-school soccer game or play date.
What should you give your child to drink?
Children love sugary juices and chocolate milk, but water is what they really need to stay hydrated. Give your child water to satisfy thirst and help develop a taste for this essential fluid early.
It's OK to offer their favorite fruit juice or flavored milk on occasion – but these should be counted as sugar- and calorie-laden snacks. Help your child understand why these are treats and not regular fare.
Establishing healthy eating habits early will help children maintain healthy weights and fight illness and disease over the course of their entire lives. Help your child be healthy by educating them about food from a young age.
If they do fall ill, FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that help children take their medicine. Ask your pharmacist how to get FLAVORx for your child's prescription medication.