Help Your Preschooler Eat Well
Many things influence what and how much your child eats.
As a parent, you have the most influence on your child. You can do a lot to help your children develop healthy eating habits for life.
• Eat together. Eat meals with your child whenever possible. Let your child see you enjoying fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at meals and snacks.
• Take it with you. Show your child how to make healthy choices when you are on the run. Put oranges, bananas, or other fruits in your bag for quick snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on vegetables when you’re on the go.
• Share the adventure. Be willing to try new foods, and try new foods together
• Cook together. Encourage your preschooler to help you prepare meals and snacks. Teach your child to tear lettuce or add veggie toppings to pizza. Cooking together can mean more time together on busy days.
• Keep things positive. Discourage older children and other family members from making yucky faces or negative comments about unfamiliar foods.
• Set a good example for physical activity, too. Make play time a family time. Walk, run, and play with your child rather than sitting on the sidelines.
Offer a Variety of Foods
• Mix it up. Change your typical foods. Try something new with your family. Here are just a few ideas: fresh pineapple, green peppers, low-fat cheese, canned salmon, or a whole wheat pita with hummus.
• Let your child chose a new vegetable to add to soup. Only an adult should heat and stir hot soup.
• Add different ingredients to your typical salads. Try adding mango, Swiss chard, or tuna to your green salad.
• Vary the cereals, types of bread, and sandwich fillings you buy week to week.
• Add fruit to your preschooler’s breakfast by using it to top cereal.
• Put rinsed and cut fruits and vegetables, in a bag or bowl, on a shelf in your refrigerator where your child can see them.
Start with Small Portions
• Use smaller bowls, plates, and utensils for your child to eat with.
• Don’t insist that children finish all the food on their plate. Let your child know it’s okay to only eat as much as he or she wants at that time.
• As children are able, allow them to serve themselves.
Make Food Fun!
• Name a food your child helps create. Make a big deal of serving “Dawn’s Salad” or “Peter’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner.
• Cut a food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters.
• Encourage your child to invent and help prepare new snacks or sandwiches. For example, make your own trail mixes from dry cereal and dried fruit.
• Have your child make towers out of whole-grain crackers, spell words with pretzel sticks, or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruit.
Jazz up the taste of vegetables with low-fat dressings or dips. Try hummus or bean spread as a dip for veggies.
Choose smart, fun snacks and meals:
• Bagel snake: Split mini bagels in half. Cut each half into half circles. Spread the halves with toppings like tuna salad, egg salad, or peanut butter. Decorate with sliced cherry tomatoes or banana slices. Arrange the half circles to form the body of a snake. Use olives or raisins for the eyes.
• English muffin pizza: Top half an English muffin with tomato sauce, chopped veggies and low-fat mozzarella cheese. Heat until the cheese is melted.
• Smiley sandwiches: Top a slice of bread with peanut butter and use an apple slice for a smile and raisins for eyes.• Frozen bananas: Put a wooden stick into a peeled banana. Cut large bananas in half first. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, peel off the plastic and enjoy.
• Potato Pal: Top half a small baked potato with eyes, ears, and a smile. Try peas for eyes, a halved cherry tomato for a nose, and a low-fat cheese wedge as a smile. Be creative, you’ll be surprised at how many foods can turn into eyes, noses, and smiles!
• Frozen graham cracker sandwiches: Mix mashed bananas and peanut butter, spread between graham crackers and freeze.
• Fruit smoothies: Blend fresh or frozen fruit with yogurt and milk or juice. Try 100% orange juice, low-fat yogurt, and frozen strawberries.
• Frozen juice cups: Pour 100% fruit juice into small paper cups. Freeze. To serve, peel off the paper and eat.
• Ants on a Log: Thinly spread peanut butter on narrow celery sticks. Top with a row of raisins or other diced dried fruit.