What do 3-year-olds eat? Get nutritional advice on what's best for your pre-schooler and how to get her to eat a rainbow of vegetables!
Your little pre-schoolers can now feed themselves without making too much of a mess, although they might still need some help with cutting up meats into smaller bite-sized pieces. They will also need help with hot foods, especially soups.
Your child should be sitting with you at the dinner table and be eating the same healthy food you eat. Their food preferences and habits are beginning to form so it is very important to not just teach, but also practise healthy eating habits together with the rest of the family whenever you can.
Healthy Eating for Life
Observe the recommended number of servings from each food group per day. Serve them a variety of food from different food groups at every meal for healthy growth and development.
Young children can be very unpredictable. Don't be surprised if they reject it one day, but then appear to love it the next—your little one is learning to assert his identity!
Don't give up, mum and dad! Keep trying to serve the food item in different forms, perhaps mashed or formed into a patty.
Recommended number of servings per day
Examples of 1 serving
* rice bowl ** 250ml mug *** 250ml cup +10 inch plate
Related: Wondering if the nutritional requirements for 3-5 year-olds is the same? As your child grows, the recommended servings per day will change too. Check out Healthy Food for Kids and Teens for the details.
And remember your handy helper, My Healthy Plate, which shows you what a healthy, well-balanced meal for young children looks like. That's ½ plate of fruits and vegetables, ¼ plate of wholegrains, and ¼ plate of meat/others.
Healthy Food for Kids and Teens
For meals and snacks, offer a variety of foods from each of the four food groups every day. It's important for your child to eat a variety of foods.
As a rule of thumb, include all four food groups at each meal and at least two food groups during snack times.
Here's a sample menu for the day—with a wide variety of food—to use as a reference:
Corn, carrot and chicken soupBrown riceWater
Wholegrain pastaTomato, onion and minced meat pasta sauceMilk
Is Your Child Eating Healthy Meals at Pre-school?
Get inspired by the rainbow and entice your child's curiosity and appetite with a variety of colours from fruits and vegetables:
Fill Up on Fruits (and Vegetables)
Your child will need some good fats as part of his diet, but you can introduce fat-free and low-fat versions of favourite foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk. Low-fat milk has the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as whole milk, but less solid fat and fewer calories.
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat (e.g. butter and red meat) or trans fat (e.g. fried food and chips). Instead, offer your child a variety of foods with good fats: polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
Food that contain good fats include oils with the Healthier Choice Symbol (e.g. canola or olive oil), avocado, fatty fish like salmon, egg, and peanut butter. But remember to offer these in moderation! Too much fat—even the good kind—can cause your child to gain too much weight.
Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Soybean Oil- How to choose Cooking Oil?
Water is the best for our bodies, and also your child's growing body. If your child finds that water is too plain, try adding a few lemon or cucumber slices to add flavour or variety. If you give your child juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice without any added sugar, and limit it to 1 cup (125ml) a day. Juice is high in sugar, so go for fresh fruit if possible.
Make Drinking Water Tasty With These Tips
Young children pick up eating habits—both good and bad—from those closest to them, so let's remember to set a good example Mum and Dad!
1. Sit down at the dinner table
Do not feed him while he watches TV or plays with his toys. Mealtimes should be relaxing, pleasant, and fun—and free from distractions. Talk, listen and enjoy each other's company.
There is also no need to rush your child through a meal. Give him time to chew well and savour the flavour, but do not force him if he doesn't want to eat. After 30 minutes, it's ok to start clearing the table.
2. Serve small portions
Serve your child small portions of each food, or allow him to serve himself. If he's still hungry, allow him to have more of any food that is on the table but encourage him to go for vegetables first.
Do not get up to make him something else if he doesn't want to eat what you've made for the whole family. It will not help to encourage him to try a variety of food.
3. Engage your little helper
Cook and clean up together. At this age, your child can help with washing vegetables, measuring and adding ingredients. Cooking together—and cleaning up after a meal together—is an excellent way to foster positive feelings about food.
Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child 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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This article was last reviewed on
15 Sep 2023
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