What to expect
Fussy eating and erratic appetites (when your child is starving one day and not hungry
the next) are common in preschoolers. Your child’s body goes through
growth spurts, and it can tell how much food it needs each day. Forcing
children to eat when they’re not hungry overrides this natural
ability. This might lead to overeating in later life if children can’t
tell how much food they actually need.
As long as you offer your child healthy food, let your child’s appetite be the guide. Most children get plenty to eat, even if it seems they’re barely eating at all.
It might also help to know that fussy eating isn’t always about food – it’s often about wanting to be independent.
A healthy breakfast wakes up your preschooler’s body by starting his metabolism. Breakfast provides the energy he needs for the day. Research has found that children who skip breakfast tend to weigh more. This might be because these hungry children eat more during the day.
Mornings can be a mad rush for many families. Luckily, breakfast can be quick and easy but still healthy – it can be as simple as yoghurt and fruit, cereal and milk, or toast.
Healthy eating tips
Here are some tips to help your child eat well every day.
- Pack a goodness punch by including lots of your child’s nutritional needs in one dish. Try Everything fried rice, an omelette with the lot, shepherd’s pie, baked beans on wholegrain toast, or pasta bolognaise with a meat and vegie sauce.
- Eating fresh foods is a better way of getting vitamins and minerals than taking supplements.
- Avoid forcing your child to eat vegetables – or any other food, for that matter. Encourage children to try a spoonful, but don’t get upset if they refuse it.
Cooking with your child gives you the chance to introduce her to a range of fresh, healthy foods.
- Generally, food additives don’t cause any harmful effects. If your child
is sensitive to one or more food additives, speak to your doctor. You
can read more about food additives in our article on food labels and nutrition panels.
- When your child starts at preschool, you might need to start packing a lunch box. Here are some healthy and tasty lunch box ideas to keep your child going through the day.
Healthy eating habits will help your child avoid falling into the trap of childhood obesity. Try to limit snacks such as salty chips, lollies and sweet biscuits, especially while your child is watching TV.
Water: the best drink
The following tips might get your preschooler drinking more water:
- Offer water with all meals and snacks.
- Keep chilled water in the fridge for hot days. Add slices of lemon or orange, or a sprig of mint, for interest.
- In summer, freeze chopped fruit in ice blocks and pop into a cup of water.
- Carry filled water bottles when you go out.
Fruit juice can give your child valuable nutrients, but it has lots of sugar. It’s better just to eat the fruit instead. If you want to give your child an occasional treat of fruit juice, mix it half-and-half with water.
When you encourage your child to be physically active, you’re helping him establish a healthy lifelong habit.
Exercise gives preschoolers strong bones and muscles, healthy hearts, lungs and arteries, and improved coordination, balance, posture and flexibility. It helps ward off heart disease, cancer and diabetes later in life. It also reduces your child’s risk of becoming overweight. Being overweight is unhealthy and uncomfortable – and very unpleasant for a young child.
You can help your child stay safe and prevent injuries when she’s playing sport or doing any kind of physical activity. Make sure she has proper equipment, a safe environment and well-fitting, protective clothes.
TV is one of the biggest obstacles to physical activity. When children spend lots of time in front of the TV or computer, they miss out on the physical activity and play that keeps them healthy. Child development experts say preschoolers should spend no more than an hour in front of the TV or computer – also known as screen time – each day.
Preschoolers don’t need much encouragement to run around in the fresh air. If you play with your child, he’ll love it even more. Preschoolers (and you) will enjoy:
- playing at the park
- flying a kite
- silly walks (pretend to walk like an elephant)
- chasing bubbles
It can be harder to think of fun, active things to do in cooler weather than in summer. Here are some ideas for winter activities