We talked to hundreds of parents about what it’s like trying to raise a healthy preschooler. Parents shared their burning questions, biggest challenges, and best strategies.
We’ve taken the top questions from parents about food and feeding and answered them here. We’ve also included practical tips from other parents like you.
Keep reading to get more information on these questions:
It’s always better to give your child plain milk or water instead of soda pop, sports drinks, or fruit juice — even if it’s 100% fruit juice. Soda pop, sports drinks, and fruit juice can add unneeded calories to your child’s diet as well as harm your child's teeth. Learn more about healthy drink choices.
"I always ordered fruit punch for my daughter when we went out to dinner, thinking it was healthier than soda. Then I learned it’s not any better!"
Milk and water are the healthiest choices for your child.
"I let my son pick out his own reusable water bottle. He picked one with animals, and he loves it! He takes it everywhere."
Preschoolers need about 3 servings (1/2 cup for this age) of fat-free (skim) or low-fat (labeled 1%) milk every day. Try serving your child milk at meals and offering water at snack time.
It’s always better to give your child plain milk or water instead of soda pop, sports drinks, or fruit juice — even if it’s 100% fruit juice. Soda pop, sports drinks, and fruit juice can add unneeded calories to your child’s diet as well as harm your child's teeth. See below for the Oral Health Flip Chart.
Remember: Eating fruit is always better than drinking it! If you do choose to give your child juice, limit it to 1 small glass (4 to 6 ounces) per day. Make sure the label says “100% fruit juice.”
Healthy choices away from home
To help your child start healthy habits:
"On days when there’s a birthday party to go to, I don’t serve any juice at home. Then I don’t mind if she has some juice at the party."
"My kids get a kick out of seltzer water. They love the bubbles. On special occasions, I add a little orange or pineapple juice."
It’s normal for toddlers to go through a picky eating phase. As toddlers grow into preschoolers, however, this phase can turn into a habit. It can be frustrating, but with time, hard work and patience these habits can be changed. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, especially if the dinner table has turned into a battle zone!
"One word: Dip*! They’ll eat anything with dip — especially cut up fruits and vegetables."
*Try healthy dip options like low fat yogurt, low fat ranch dressing, or peanut butter. Check out these practical tips for managing your picky eater.
"Family meals used to be fun. Now every meal feels like a battle."
It’s normal for toddlers to go through a picky eating phase. As toddlers grow into preschoolers, however, this phase can turn into a habit. It can be frustrating, but with time, hard work and patience these habits can be changed. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, especially if the dinner table has turned into a battle zone! Keep reading for some practical tips to help you keep your cool.
"I give him the stuff he doesn’t like first, when he is most hungry. I don’t give him his favorites first — I give him the new stuff first so he will eat it!"
Your child is learning what he likes and what he doesn’t — and his tastes can (and will!) change very quickly. Something your child refuses to eat this week could very easily be his favorite next week, so don’t give up. Don’t remove foods that your child is refusing from his diet. Keep offering these along with other healthy foods that he likes such as fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and whole grains.
When you are dealing with a picky eater:
Preschoolers are often very curious about learning new tasks and fun facts. You can use this to help him learn about new foods. For example, you can:
"One thing I learned is that it matters how you cut up the food. If I cut her sandwich straight, she won’t eat it. But if I cut it in triangles or diagonally, she’ll eat it right up."
"One word: Dip! They’ll eat anything with dip — especially cut up fruits and vegetables."
Try to limit the amount of dip your preschooler uses with fruits or veggies to 2 tablespoons. Some tasty, low fat dip options are:
Check out these other online resources:
A growing preschooler needs 1 to 2 healthy snacks every day. Make snack time healthy with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy to help your child get all the nutrients he needs. And you don’t have to be a great cook — healthy snacks can be fast and easy to make!
"My family is on the go so much, I found myself resorting to portable snacks like bags of chips. What can I do instead?"
Did you know that it’s normal for a growing preschooler to have 1 to 2 snacks every day? Make snack time healthy to help your child get all the nutrients he needs. And you don’t have to be a great cook — there are plenty of healthy snacks that are fast and easy to make (and clean up!).
"I pack my son’s snacks for pre-school in reusable snack containers with lids that twist on and off. They are perfect because he can open them himself. And his snack doesn’t get crushed in his school bag."
Try giving your child:
Remember: Water is the best drink choice to give your child at snack time.
"My kids won’t eat sliced apples if they are brown. So I keep them in a bowl of cold water in the fridge. When we go out, I quickly toss them in lemon or orange juice and throw them in a container."
"My daughter loves to bake so we make healthy mini-muffins with fruit (like banana or apple) or veggies (like carrot or pumpkin) and use them as snacks. I freeze most of them and just pull them out at snack time and zap them in the microwave for a few seconds."
Check out these other online resources for more easy ways to eat healthy:
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