No one ever said that helping kids become healthy and competent eaters was easy. Kids’ appetite and food preferences are changeable. Nearly every parent and caregiver faces feeding challenges and concerns, and nearly all parents want their child to be adequately nourished - not over or undernourished - in order to grow and develop normally.
The preschool years are an important time for developing healthy habits for life. During this time, children grow and develop in ways that affect behavior in all areas including eating. The timing of these milestones may vary with each child:
Children who are aged three years old:
- Can be easily distracted while eating
- Experience slower growth and reduction in appetite
- May suddenly refuse certain foods
Children who are aged four years old:
- Can be influenced by TV, Media, and peers
- May dislike many mixed dishes
- Can be easily side tracked
- May suddenly refuse certain foods
In general, their meals and snacks should have many of the same attributes as that of adults: a variety of nutrient-rich foods with Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, and Minerals. Never forget to provide fruits, vegetables, and milk twice a day for children aged 3 and above.
Preschoolers and school-age children need a variety of nutrient-dense foods. They typically like finger foods. By feeding themselves, they develop a sense of independence and learn when they are full. Self-feeding with hands or fingers also helps them explore so they can be familiar and comfortable with new foods.
Some healthy finger foods include baked potatoes and sweet potatoes cut into strips and dipped in low fat dressing, or grilled chicken cut into strips, wedges of peeled apples, pears, melons, guavas, watermelons, papayas, and mangoes, vegetables such as cucumber, broccoli, and carrots.
- Young children also like to eat snacks. Let snacks supplement meals and not replace them. With snacks given three hours before a meal, they will not stay long on the table when it’s actually mealtime.
- Let them play before a meal so they will eat quickly and right away.
- Gadgets and TV must be placed away from the table.
- Parents must join the meals of their children in order for them to be role models, providing the children an avenue to see the healthy food preferences of their parents
About The Expert
NIEVES C. SERRA, Nutritionist-Dietitian
Ms. Nieves Serra, a registered Dietitian, took up AB major in Nutrition and minor in Home Culture in St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) Manila in 1960. After her graduation in 1964, she took up the ten months Dietetic Internship program at FEU Hospital. She was the only one in her batch at SSC who took the Board Exam, passed it and practiced in the country. She took up M.S. Foods and Nutrition and MBA without thesis from Philippine Women’s University, Manila.
Her career has been devoted to hospital work in the Dietary department of private and government hospitals for a span of 46 years, and 41 years teaching nursing, HRM and nutrition students. She was also a cafeteria concessionaire for 6 years in various industrial companies, a lecturer/speaker in seminars and conventions and a member of various associations such as PASOO, and PHILSPEN.
In 1992, she was awarded the Outstanding Nutritionist-Dietitian of the year by Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), and was a past president of Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines or NDAP (1988), NDAP Life member (2007 to 2011), and held various positions from 1966 to the present. She is married to her profession, a devout Catholic, and follows the Benedictine motto of her school, St. Scholastica’s College, “Ora et Labora, which means work and pray being a loyal Scholastican and a loyal NDAP member.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.