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5 Ways To Set Healthy Eating Habits for Preschoolers

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 21, 2023

    5 Ways To Set Healthy Eating Habits for Preschoolers

    Cultivating healthy eating habits for preschoolers is crucial to help them grow up well and reach various developmental milestones. What steps can parents take to instill good dietary choices in their kids? Find out here.

    1. Establish a regular schedule for snack and mealtimes

    One of the most important tips for parents is to set schedules for both meals and snacks.

    This habit helps “train” your preschooler’s appetite. Eating at regular intervals promotes a balanced diet. Not only will they eat the healthy foods you prepare for them, but it will also prevent them from munching on snacks whenever they feel like it.

    Here’s another crucial tip: limit mealtimes to a reasonable period.

    In most cases, 30 minutes is more than enough for your preschooler to finish their meal, but you can adjust according to their ability to feed themselves. Setting a time limit helps your child focus on their meals.

    2. Eat with family and model good behavior

    Kids learn by copying what you’re doing. To instill healthy eating habits for preschoolers, have meals together with the family so that they can imitate good habits.

    While sharing meals, make it a point to choose a variety of nutritious foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

    What’s more, be mindful of how you speak and act. Don’t bring gadgets and emphasize that they should not toy with their food or play on the table.

    More importantly, discourage your child from running while eating, as this increases the risk of accidents like choking.

    3. Allow your kids some freedom in their choices

    Some parents are tempted to impose strict rules during mealtimes, like “forcing” kids to clean their plate before having dessert or insisting that they eat something healthy even though they don’t like it.

    Experts say it’s much better to allow kids some freedom when it comes to food choices. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’ll prepare meals according to their preferences.

    Cook what is in your meal plan, and then let your preschooler choose what they want to eat. Another tip is to continue offering them the food they initially disliked.

    healthy eating habits for preschoolers

    Furthermore, don’t push them to finish their plate. Remember that preschoolers have different portion sizes than yours. Asking them to consume everything when they are already full might result in overeating. Teaching healthy eating to preschoolers involves encouraging them to recognize their hunger and fullness.

    4. Give them healthy treats

    Preschoolers will crave for treats from time to time, so it is not wise to totally forbid it. What is advisable is to modify how you allow them to indulge.

    For instance, when they want to eat chocolates, choose to have chocolates as a family. And to make it healthier, go for the dark variety than the brand with a lot of sugars.

    Another important tip is to avoid giving food as a reward. Giving sweets, sodas, or cakes as rewards may trigger overeating; because it is viewed as a prize, they might eat it even when it is not mealtime yet or when they are not hungry yet.

    5. “Train” them to choose healthy foods

    And finally, train your child to pick healthy foods over empty-calorie products. Involve them in grocery shopping and food preparation. Give them materials (such as books) that model healthy eating habits for preschoolers. Other than that, you may also do the following ways to set healthy eating habits for preschoolers:

    Keep a variety of healthy foods at home

    To have some level of control over your preschooler’s choice of food, keep healthy foods and snacks at home.

    For instance, store healthy foods such as fruits and veggie salads in the fridge. When your child gets hungry, direct them to the refrigerator and let them choose their food.

    Make fruits more “visible”

    Place various fruits on the table, where your child can easily see and reach for them. It will be helpful when they tell you that they’re hungry or if they become tempted to munch.

    Encourage them to take one bite

    One useful technique to help build healthy eating habits for preschoolers is to set a “one bite rule.”

    Simply put, encourage your child to have one bite of a new food offered to them. Likewise, consider preparing foods they dislike differently. For instance, if they didn’t like broccoli on its own, pair it with another veggie that they love, and then ask them to have a bite.

    Learn more about Toddler Nutrition here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 21, 2023

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