Nutrition for Preschoolers

Preschool-age children (ages 4 to 5) are still developing their eating habits and need encouragement to eat healthy meals and snacks. These children are eager to learn, especially from other people, and will often imitate eating behaviors of adults. They need supervision at mealtime as they are still working on chewing and swallowing skills.

The following are some helpful mealtime hints for preschool-age children:

  • Prepare meals, provide regularly scheduled snacks and limit unplanned eating. Serve your child most of the foods that the rest of the family is eating.
  • Poor behavior at mealtime should not be allowed. Focus on eating, not playing with food or playing at the dinner table. Provide a quiet eating area with no TV or toys and plan a few minutes of quiet time before each meal.
  • Running or playing while eating can cause a child to choke. Have your child sit when eating.
  • Keep offering a variety of foods. Have the attitude that, sooner or later, your child will learn to eat most foods.
  • Make mealtime as pleasant as possible. Do not put pressure on your child to eat, or force your child to “clean” his or her plate. This may lead to overeating which can cause your child to gain too much weight. Children will be hungry at mealtime if snacks have been limited during the day.
  • Provide examples of healthy eating habits. Preschoolers mimic what they see their parents doing. If you have unhealthy eating habits, your child will not learn to eat healthy.

Healthy Food Choices

MyPlate - United States Department of Agriculture

The Choose My Plate icon is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. My Plate can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for children age 2 and older.

Preschoolers and Nutrition

Encourage Your Preschooler to Snack Healthy
Preschoolers may not eat as much in one sitting and often get hungry before the next meal. Try these snack ideas between meals.

4 Tips for Feeding Fussy Eaters
As many parents know, getting preschoolers to eat healthy foods like vegetables can be a challenge. What to do?

Creating Healthy Mental Food Perceptions
Parents have significant influence over their preschooler's mental perceptions about food. CHOC psychologist Dr. Cindy Kim offers tips for healthy food attitudes.