The sobering reality is that obesity and being overweight usually sets in during early childhood, around the age of five. In Singapore, about 10 percent of five-year-olds are overweight. They are more likely to remain so as they grow up and become at risk for a number of health problems later in life.

Related: Recommended Dietary Allowances

How to Keep Your Child Within the Healthy Weight Range?

Young children gain weight as they grow. Gaining too much weight for their height is what sets off the alarm bells. This happens when kids eat more food, don't use enough energy or eat lots of empty calories such as sweets and deep-fried food.

Want your kids to have a healthy weight? Try getting them into the habit of:

  • eating regular and balanced meals to get all the nutrients they need

  • eating nutrient-dense food; every portion counts as children eat less at one go

  • exercising regularly

Eating habits are formed during the early years, by the age of five, and are likely to stick in adulthood. Therefore, building your kids' healthy eating habits early means they will reap the benefits down the road.

Related: A Healthy Food Foundation For Kids and Teens

The Healthy Meals in Preschools Programme

If you are looking after your children at home, you have more control over what they eat. As the one preparing their meals, it's easier to make sure they have regular and nutritious food under mummy or daddy's watchful eyes.

But if your kids attend preschool for half a day or the entire day, they could be having at least two of their main meals in school. How do you know if they are eating well there?

One way is by choosing a preschool accredited under the Healthy Meals in Preschools Programme (HMPP). These preschools have pledged to serve up healthier meals, as well as shape children's food preferences at an early age so that they can make healthier food choices as they grow.

Related: Healthy Eating in School and at Home

What will your children eat?

When your children attend these preschools, they will be served:

  • balanced meals and healthier snacks

  • meals that contain higher nutritional quality by including whole grains, lean protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre

  • meals that have lesser sugar, saturated and trans fat, and sodium

For example, your children may be given a healthy set meal for lunch, with food from the four main food groups such as brown rice or wholemeal bread, together with lean meat, vegetables and fruits.

Related: Healthy and Delicious Meals in School Canteens

Who will be cooking these meals?

No worries, as cooks from HMPP schools are trained and assessed by the Health Promotion Board. They are also advised on:

  • menu planning

  • healthier cooking methods

  • using healthier ingredients (such as brown rice, whole grains and healthier oils with lower saturated fat)

  • appropriate portioning of food for children

Related: Healthy Meals in Preschools Programme

What else do they learn?

Your children will also learn more about choosing healthier food as part of their nutrition education. For example, at Early Learning's Fun Preschool, children are introduced to the day's menu before their meals, so that they understand what they are eating and learn the names of food.

Don't be surprised if you hear them sharing with you information they pick up from school, such as what is "My Healthy Plate", and why it is important to eat more whole grains, fruit and veggies. Your kids may even tell you how they helped to prepare their meals, or learn how veggies are grown during field trips.

Since young children learn best through play, preschools in the HMPP, such as My First Skool at Blk 245 Bishan Street 22 are making healthy eating learning activities into games and letting their young charges "play with food", such as food sorting and creating their own healthy meals.

Why not find out more about the healthy eating activities in your child's preschool and see how to bring some of the lessons home to your dining table?

When kids eat healthier meals both in school and at home, they are more likely to form healthy eating habits from a young age and make smarter meal choices on their own as they grow up.

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

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

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