Start your preschooler on the path to healthy eating with these basic strategies:
1) Be a good role model by eating regular meals based on nutrient-rich foods like fat-free dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Your child watches what you eat, so make sure you're a good example of healthy food choices yourself!
2) Establish routines around mealtimes and snacks. This consistency makes young children feel secure. Be sure to allow children enough time at the table - aim for 20 minutes. Always try to create a calm and nurturing environment because your child can't focus on eating if there're multiple distractions (eg. TV, iPad, etc.) around.
3) Relax; don't force, cajole, persuade or trick your preschooler to try to get him to eat. This creates a battleground where no one wins. You may have to offer a food 10-15 times before it's accepted. Try to add just one new food to a meal with three or more healthy foods your child already enjoys. Eventually your child will begin to accept new foods. The vital thing is, don't give up!
4) Watch for signals
that your child is full and has finished eating (eg. playing with food). Offer him nutritious food and do not let him fill up on junk food. He will then naturally regulate the amount he eats. Simpler foods are usually preferred. Make sure the temperature and texture of the food you offer is easily handled by your child.
5) Divide the responsibility.
Both you and your child have choices to make when it comes to eating. You determine what foods are served and when. He should decide which of these healthy foods he would like to eat and how much. Don't be concerned if your child doesn't finish all the food you offer at any one meal or snack. Since he's taking several meals a day, his intake per meal should be sufficient.
6) Offer healthy snacks.
Young children have small stomachs. They need to eat less, and more often. Regularly scheduled healthy snacks are like 'mini-meals' which can provide up to a quarter of the nutrients your child needs each day as well as enough calories (energy) to sustain him through a busy day of school and/or play. Try to combine foods from at least two food groups that partner protein and carbohydrate sources. Peanut butter and whole grain crackers or fresh fruit (cubed) mixed into a low-fat yogurt make great energy-giving snacks.
7)Make physical activity a part of your family's health routine.
Children should be active at play for at least 1-2 hours each day. Consider options like a simple outing to the park to play or more organized classes for age-appropriate sports. Don't forget to limit TV time for young children.. that's a healthy habit you'll want to establish early!