Eat Healthily and Stay Active

Helping your child develop and maintain healthy habits from young can help prevent health problems when they grow up. 

All About Eating

One habit that is important to encourage is the habit of healthy eating. Some kids are picky eaters while some kids simply eat too much. 

Chubby children may be cute, but not all children will eventually grow out of their chubbiness. Excess weight may lead to chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. An overweight child may suffer from issues with self-esteem if they get teased by their friends because of their size. 

The main rule of thumb when it comes to maintaining weight is energy balance: 

Energy input = Energy output

If a person eats more than the energy they use, the excess energy that is not used will be stored in the body as fat and cause weight gain. 

There are two easy ways to help your child live a healthy lifestyle and keep obesity at bay: 

  1. Eat healthily 
  2. Be active 

Eat Healthily 

Knowing what kind of food to eat more or less of can keep your child on the path to good health. My Healthy Plate is an easy-to-understand guide to better nutrition.

My Healthy Plate

There are four main food groups: 

  • Grains (e.g., brown rice, wholemeal bread)
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 
  • Meat and Others 

Enjoy a variety from each group at every meal. A good mix of these will provide the nutrients that your child needs. 

What and How Much Should Your Child Eat

When planning your child's daily meals, it is important to include the right number of servings from the following food groups to ensure that your child obtains the nutrients they need.

Food Groups Recommended servings per day for children age 3 to 6 years old
Grains (eg. brown rice, wholemeal bread) 3-4
Fruit 1
Vegetables 1
Meat & Others
(Dairy foods or calcium-rich foods constitute 1 serving)

Know the Serving Sizes

The table below illustrates the size of one serving for each of the food groups. 

Examples of One Serving: 



  • 2 slices wholemeal bread (60g)
  • ½ bowl brown rice (100g)
  • 2 bowls brown rice porridge (500g)
  • ½ bowl whole-grain noodles, beehoon or spaghetti (100g)
  • 4 plain wholemeal biscuits (40g)
  • 2 wholemeal chapatis (60g)
  • 1½ cups whole-grain breakfast cereal (40g)
  •  bowl uncooked oatmeal (50g)


  • 150g raw leafy vegetables
  • 100g raw non-leafy vegetables
  • ¾ mug cooked leafy vegetables (100g)
  • ¾ mug cooked non-leafy vegetables (100g)
  • ¼ round plate cooked vegetables


  • 1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g)
  • 1 wedge papaya, pineapple or watermelon (130g)
  • 10 grapes or longans (50g)
  • 1 medium banana 
  • ¼ cup dried fruit (40g)

Meat & Others

  • 1 palm-size piece meat, fish or poultry (90g)
  • 2 glasses milk (500 ml)
  • 2 small blocks soft bean curd (170g)
  • ¾ cup cooked pulses (peas, beans, lentils) (120g)
  • 5 medium prawns (90g)
  • 3 eggs (150g)

Dairy products: 
Dairy products include milk and milk products that come from animals, most often cows and goats. Nondairy milk alternatives (ie, plant-based milks) are not "milk" per se, but extracts derived from plant sources. 

Children between 12 and 24 months of age generally should drink whole unflavored cow milk unless they have cow milk allergy or intolerance. They should consume at least 2 cups per day and eat foods rich in calcium to meet their daily calcium requirement. Excessive milk intake can displace the desire for foods that fulfill nutritional requirements. 

Children older than two years should consume fat-free or low-fat cow milk , calcium- and vitamin D-fortified soy milk, or equivalent cow milk or fortified soy milk products. They should consume at least 2 to 3 cups per day and eat foods rich in calcium to meet their daily calcium requirement.

When substituting yogurt for cow milk, the nutrition label should be reviewed to make sure that it contains an equivalent amount of calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients, without too much added sugar. Flavored yogurts may contain two to three times the amount of natural sugars in plain yogurt.

  • All weights listed are for edible portions only.
  • Bowl refers to rice bowl.
  • Mug/cup refers to 250 ml. 
  • Diameter of plate is 10 inches.

Healthy Snacks for Kids 

Here are some ideas of what you can give your child between his meals if he is hungry:

Healthy trail mix 

Mix one cup of whole-grain cereal with ¼ cup of chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews) and ¼ cup of chopped dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins and cranberries) for a healthy snack that you can take anywhere. 

Yoghurt pots 

Top a cup of low-fat, low-sugar yoghurt with granola or fresh fruit for a quick calcium boost. 

Cheese and Crackers 

Top whole-grain crackers with a soft cheese spread or a piece of tasty cheddar for an easy-to-prepare snack that is rich in calcium. 

Veggies and Dip 

Cut cucumber, celery, carrots and/ or capsicums into sticks and serve with a small side of low-fat dressing. This is a savoury snack that is easy to prepare in advance — just prepare the veggies and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Frozen Treats 

Freeze fruits such as seedless grapes, kiwifruit or strawberries for an icy-cool treat that is low in sugar and high in vitamins. For extra fun, skewer a few fruit pieces on a satay stick or toothpick before freezing. 

Easy Guacamole 

Mash a ripe avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some chopped ripe tomatoes to make a mild, nutritious guacamole that even your picky child will love. Serve with plain tortilla chips or wholegrain crackers.

Want to provide healthier options for your child and for your family?

Do look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) on your next trip to the supermarket.

Food products with HCS are generally: 

  • Lower in fat. 
  • Lower in salt. 
  • Lower in sugar. 
  • Some of them are also higher in calcium and whole-grains compared to similar products. 

You can include a variety of HCS products as part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, like all food, they should be eaten in moderation. 

Tips on Introducing a Healthier Diet

The eating environment is a critical factor in the development of healthy eating behaviors. Structure and routine for all eating occasions are particularly important. The meal environment should be free from distractions. Eating should occur in a designated area, and the child should have a developmentally appropriate chair.

  • Provide your child’s meals at regular times every day. They would be less likely to snack when they know that the next meal is coming. 
  • Use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling and grilling. Avoid deep frying. 
  • Select lean cuts and remove the skin from meat and poultry. 
  • Choose snacks with the Healthier Snack Symbol or cut up some crunchy fruits and vegetables for a mid-day snack. 
  • Offer water to your child. Water is best for quenching thirst. Add lemon slices or mint to add flavour or variety. 
  • Use sweet and fatty spreads such as jam, kaya and margarine sparingly. 
  • Choose fresh food rather than preserved food. Most fresh food contains glutamate, a natural taste enhancer which provides natural flavours without the need to add salt and sauces. 
  • Spice up meals by using natural seasonings such as parsley, coriander, onions and garlic. They can enhance the flavour of dishes without increasing its salt content. 
  • When introducing a new food to your child, do so in small portions over a period of time. Your child may not accept these foods the first time. Be patient as it may be necessary to introduce a new food to your child as many as ten times before he accepts it. 
  • Avoid rushing through meals by encouraging your child to chew well and savour the flavour. This will help your child avoid over-eating. 
  • Shop together at the supermarket and show your child how to make healthier food choices by looking out for HCS products (see box). 
  • Cut the vegetables in interesting shapes and sizes to make these more appealing to your child. 
  • Replace white rice, white bee hoon or pasta with whole grain options. 
  • Do not use food to reward or punish your child. By using food as a reward or punishment, you may increase his desire to consume or avoid certain foods. 
  • Eat healthily and be a good role model for your child. 

Stay Active 

Preschoolers should be encouraged to have at least 180 minutes of physical activity spread out over the course of a day. Consider spreading the physical activity in between periods of inactivity.

If your child has a physical limitation or medical condition, please seek a doctor’s advice on the types and amount of physical activity that are best for your child.    

Tips to keep your child active: 

  • Have fun with play. Try various games and sports to find one that your child likes. 
  • Make it fun. You can even put your child in charge and let him choose an activity to play.
  • Keep moving. Break up long periods of inactivity with 5 -10 minutes of fun and play in between. 
  • Limit your child’s screen time to less than two hours each day. 
  • Refrain from introducing the television / electronic tablet to children less than 2 years old. 
  • Commit to a specified amount of time for outdoor activities/games each day. It could be something as simple as a walk or a visit to the playground. 
  • Praise and motivate your children when they engage in physical activity.
  • When choosing a present for your child, pick one that encourages activity, such as a hula hoop.
  • Set a good example by getting the whole family involved and being active! 

Children Should Engage in Play in a Safe Environment Under Supervision

Children at this stage are full of energy and it is amazing what they can do. Although they may be able to run, jump and climb, their skills in judgement and self-control are still developing. Always be aware of your child’s surroundings and ensure that they are safe during play.

Pool safety is also important, read about water safety tips in the article: Keeping your child safe.

Bond with your child while engaging in these everyday activities! 

Healthy Start for Your Growing Kid

Pick the topic that you are interested in and download our ebook below:

1. Set a Healthy example - Children see, children do
2. Active Living - Raising healthy kids
3. Myopia Prevention - Healthy eyes, clear vision
4. Oral Health - Help your child smile
5. Mental Well Being - Build him up, raising a resilient child
6. Child Safety - Growing up safe (3-6 years old)
7. Infections Disease Prevention - Keep germs away
8. Sexuality Education - Mum dad where do I come from
9. Smoke-Free Environment - A smoke free environment for a healthier family
10. Alcohol Education - Alcohol alert
11. Healthy Living in Child Care Centres - Growing up healthily in a child care centre
12. School Health and Dental Services - Entering primary school growing up healthily in school
13. Screening and Early Detection - Is my child developing normally
14. Services Support Groups and Helplines - Where to get help (Growing Kid)
15. Books from National Library Board - Books for your growing child (Toddler and Preschooler)

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

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