Cultivating healthy eating habits begins in early childhood.

Nutrition after the Fourth Year

At this age, it is quite likely that your spirited pre-schooler would have developed quite a personality to go along with his expanding vocabulary. He'll have strong opinions about many things, such as his likes and dislikes when it comes to what's being put on the dinner table.

Related: Power Up With Sports Nutrition

Know the Recommended Servings

Get your child to eat a wide variety of food from all the major food groups! You can follow the recommended or suggested servings from each food group.

Recommended number of servings per day

Brown rice and wholemeal bread Fruit Vegetables Meat and Others
Meat Dairy foods or calcium-rich foods
3-4 1 1 1 1

Examples of 1 serving

Brown Rice and Wholemeal Bread Vegetables
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread (60g)
  • ½ bowl* brown rice (100g)
  • 2 bowls* brown rice porridge (500g)
  • ½ bowl* wholegrain noodles, spaghetti or beehoon (100g)
  • 4 plain wholemeal biscuits (40g)
  • 1 thosai (60g)
  • 2 wholemeal chapatis (60g)
  • ¾ mug** cooked leafy vegetables (100g)
  • ¾ mug cooked non-leafy vegetables (100g)
  • 150g raw leafy vegetables
  • 100g raw non-leafy vegetables
  • ¼ round plate+ cooked vegetables
Fruit Meat and Others
  • 1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g)
  • 1 wedge pineapple, papaya or watermelon (130g)
  • 10 grapes or longans (50g)
  • 1 medium banana
  • ¼ cup*** dried fruit (40g)
  • 1 palm-sized piece fish, lean meat or skinless poultry (90g)
  • 2 small blocks soft bean curd (170g)
  • ¾ cup cooked pulses (e.g. lentils, peas, beans) (120g)
  • 5 medium prawns (90g)
  • 3 eggs (150g)
  • 2 glasses of milk (500ml)

* rice bowl ** 250ml mug *** 250ml cup +10 inch plate

Use My Healthy Plate

To ensure your child eats from different food groups and in the right portions, use My Healthy Plate as a guide! When determining how much to put on the plate, use a child's plate (not an adult's plate!) for your pre-schooler. Fill ½ of the plate with vegetables and fruit, ¼ with wholegrains, and ¼ with meat/others for a balanced diet.

A balanced diet consists of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Related: Tips on Cooking Wholegrains

Pre-School Nutrition 101

Teach Your Child the Basics: S, M, L

With the little one being more outspoken and opinionated as he grows older, you may find it increasingly difficult to deny certain treats or snacks to your child. It is important to stand your ground or else your child will not learn! You're teaching him invaluable, healthy eating habits that he will take into adulthood.

Teach your child to make healthy food choices and nurture healthy eating habits.

S: Eat Sometimes, in Small Amounts

Remind him that high-sugar, high-fat, and high-calorie foods are not sinful, but are foods that should only be enjoyed sometimes, in small amounts as they are not as nutritious as other options. Avoid making fast food, fried snacks and candy seem forbidden as they may seem even more attractive to the little one.

M: Eat in Moderate Amounts

Then there are foods that your little one should eat daily, and in moderate amounts: Wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholegrain noodles) and meat/others (e.g. lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, lentils). These foods are nutritious for your child as they give your child the daily energy he needs. Watch the portions to make sure they don't eat more than needed, or else they might gain too much weight.

L: Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables!

Go Green! Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, nutrients and low in calories. Feel free to offer a second helping to your kid after meals. They are also nutritional snacks for pre-schoolers. It’s okay for pre-schoolers to eat lots of fruits and vegetables during meals and snack times.

If your cheeky pre-schooler doesn’t like fresh fruit for snacks, try making them more appealing and interesting. Why not make fruit popsicles with real fruit and pure fruit juice for hot afternoons? Or blend some frozen bananas into a yummy ice cream alternative to encourage picky eaters to cultivate healthy eating habits. Show him the many delicious ways to eat healthy meals!

Related: Healthy Meals with My Healthy Plate

Bake Healthy Snacks for Kids

Snacks don't have to be unhealthy. If your child is bored of strawberries, dried fruits or nuts as a snack, why not turn on the oven and bake some cakes or muffins? Make a few simple tweaks to the recipe and you'll be whipping up a healthier treat for your kid.

For example, try replacing white flour with whole-wheat or buckwheat flour. Your child probably won't be able to taste the difference! It might take a few tries to get the flavour just right, but an afternoon baking in the kitchen with your child makes for a great family activity too.

Related: Banish Nasty Nibbles With Healthy Snacks

Give Your Pre-Schooler Water, Not Juice

Make sure you get the little one to drink plenty of water frequently throughout the day—6-8 glasses per day. Kids can get so caught up in play at times, and they forget to take time out to hydrate themselves. Sugary drinks can cause tooth decay so avoid giving these to your kid.

Related: The Best Thirst-Quenchers for Kids

Use Healthy Ingredients and Healthy Cooking Methods

Pick lean meats, and remove the skin and visible fat from poultry when you can. Most of your meals should be stir-fried, boiled, steamed or grilled. Use healthy cooking methods that use less oil, salt and sugar; this is not only good for your child, but it's also good for the family too! If you'd like a bit more flavour in your meals, spice them up with a tiny dash of flavour-enhancing ingredients such as garlic, basil, cloves, cumin, turmeric and coriander seeds to appeal to picky eaters.

Related: From Goreng to Grill: Healthier Cooking Methods

Use healthy cooking methods when preparing meals.

Ensuring Your Child Eats Healthy Meals at Pre-School

While it is possible to control what your kid eats at home, it can be hard to do so if your child is at a pre-school for half of the day. Look for schools that are accredited under the Healthy Meals in Pre-schools Programme (HMPP) so that your child can eat healthy both at home and school.

Related: Healthy Meals in Pre-schools Programme

More Healthy Tips

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Avoid keeping unhealthy treats in the house. You may think that you've found the perfect hiding spot for the occasional guilty pleasure, but kids can be incredibly resourceful.

  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment. Your kid is going to negotiate, bargain and try all sorts of methods to get his way. But never lose your temper, and never use food as a bribe or punishment as your child will not learn from these methods.

  • No distractions when eating. Mealtimes are meant to foster healthy eating habits and encourage communication in the family. Discourage watching the TV or playing games at the dinner table.

  • Teach your child about health and nutrition. Children are quick learners, and there's so much about health and nutrition to learn. Continue to teach your child about making healthier food choices and reinforce healthy eating habits whenever you can, for example, while shopping at the supermarket or eating at the hawker centre. Keep a lookout for the Healthier Choice Symbol!

Teach your child to make healthy food choices like using the Healthier Choice Symbol when grocery shopping.

  • Keep up the good job as a positive role model. Set a good example for your kid by eating right! Kids love to imitate their parents, so there'll be much fewer complaints about food preferences when he's having exactly what you're having.

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References:

  1. Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD. (2008, December 17). Serve Up Good Nutrition for Pre-school Children. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/serve-up-good-nutrition-for-preschool-children#3