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MissouriFamilies.org - Food and Fitness

 

Feature Articles: Children

 

Healthy habits for your preschool aged child

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension

 

Preschool aged boy eating a bananaPreschool is a good time to help your child develop good eating habits. Because your child is with you most of the time, it is easier to influence their food choices. Keep in mind that the eating habits learned during this time can be carried into the future.

 

Eating meals with the family is important for preschool aged children. Young preschoolers who eat meals with their families have a better vocabulary because of the mealtime conversations. These children consume more fruits and vegetables than children who do not participate in family meals. It is also known that children who participate in family meals make healthier food choices when they are away from home. Keep mealtimes relaxed and encourage conversation with your children. Be a good role model for your children. They tend to want to eat the same types of foods that you eat.

 

It can be hard for a 2-5 year old child to get all of the nutrients they need in three meals. Snacks can help provide these important nutrients.
 

A wide variety of foods should be offered to assure your child is getting the important nutrients they need. Four nutrients that are especially important, and sometimes lacking, for this age group are vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and calcium.

 

Vitamin C helps produce connective tissue and helps keep capillary walls and blood vessels firm to prevent bruising. Vitamin C also helps heal cuts and wounds. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices.

 

Vitamin A helps to promote normal vision, helps us see in the dark, and helps prevent infection by keeping skin and other tissues healthy. Good sources of vitamin A include dark green and deep yellow vegetables such as sweet potatoes and spinach.

 

Calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth. Foods from the milk group provide an excellent source of calcium.

 

Iron helps to build red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. When iron is low, a child can develop iron-deficiency anemia which can cause the child to be tired, weak and pale. Good sources of iron include red meats and iron fortified cereal.
 

It can be hard for a 2-5 year old child to get all of the nutrients they need in three meals. Snacks can help provide these important nutrients. Between meals, offer healthy choices such as cereal with milk, dried or fresh fruit, raw vegetables with dip, cheese and crackers or yogurt with fruit.
 

Food jags are common with this age of child. This can be scary for a parent but the best way to handle it is to not make it a big issue. Go ahead and offer the favorite food along with other healthy foods. If you draw too much attention to the food jag, it may cause it to last longer than it otherwise might have.
 

Children do have the ability to make healthy choices and eat enough of what they need. It is the job of the parent to make sure the healthy choices are there and to provide a positive atmosphere at mealtime. When they get to make healthy choices it helps them feel good about themselves.

 


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Last update: Wednesday, February 17, 2016