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Nutritional Needs of Preschoolers: Guide for Parents

Nutritional Needs of Preschoolers: Guide for Parents

Parents know how important healthy eating is for a child’s growth and development. However, “healthy eating” depends on several factors like the child’s gender, age, activity level, height, and weight. That’s why your preschooler has a different dietary requirement from a toddler or a school-age child. What are the nutritional needs of preschoolers?

Preschool Nutrition Pyramid, an Overview

By the time your child reaches preschool, they are more or less capable of feeding themselves. Generally, they’ll eat what the rest of the family is eating, but it’s important to ensure it is of nutritional value. Furthermore, food portions also matter.

The nutrition pyramids for preschoolers vary depending on the reference, but most pyramids group a child’s dietary requirement into the following groups:

nutritional needs of preschoolers

Grains

Grains are your kid’s primary carbohydrate source. These foods are made from rice, wheat, oats, barley, or cereal grains. Reports say they need about 6 servings per day. For meal planning, you can consider:

  • ½ cup of cooked pasta, rice, or cereal
  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ muffin

Vegetables

The nutritional needs of preschoolers include vegetables. For your child, choose the green, leafy kind, as well as veggies of various colors.

As for serving size, studies say that preschoolers need about 3 servings of vegetables daily. Typically, one serving is equivalent to ½ cup of cooked or chopped veggies.

Fruits

Of course, the preschool nutrition pyramid will not be complete without fruits. Don’t worry; your options when it comes to fruits are not confined to the fresh kind.

According to experts, the fruits you give to your preschooler can also be dried, frozen, or canned. In fact, 100% fruit juices also count. As for preparation, your kids can eat the fruits as they are or include them in salads, shakes, or puree.

Preschoolers need about 2 servings of fruits daily. 1 serving is usually equivalent to ½ cup or 1 piece of small fruit.

However, for fruit juice, The American Pediatric Society recommends no more than 4 ounces (118 ml) of fruit juice for kids aged 1-3; 4-6-year old kids can have as much as 6 ounces (177 ml).

Dairy

Dairy or milk products are crucial for healthy bones; hence, parents must not forget including them during meal planning.

Preschoolers need about 3 servings of milk per day. Please focus on healthy sources with high calcium and low-fat or fat-free products. Examples of healthy choices are:

  • Yogurt
  • Unsweetened milk
  • Cheese

Meat

The preschool nutrition pyramid will not be complete without meat, as they are a good protein source. Focus on low-fat and lean meat, fish, and poultry.

Preschoolers need about 2 to 3 servings per day; 1 serving is equivalent to 1 egg or 1.5 to 2 ounces (42 to 56 grams) of meat, fish, and poultry.

Also, please note that some nuts and seeds are good protein sources.

Fats

Finally, the nutritional needs of preschoolers also include fats. But, don’t worry; it doesn’t mean you’ll have to give your child “fatty foods.”

Preschoolers need about 3 to 4 servings of fats daily, but each serving is small and must come from healthy oils, which you can incorporate in their foods. You can obtain 1 serving of fats from:

  • 1 teaspoon of oil, butter, or salad dressing
  • 2 tablespoons of avocado
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter

Reminders

Even if your preschooler can now independently eat, continue to take note of slippery foods like whole grapes, large meat, and hotdogs. These foods can pose choking hazards, so consider cutting them into smaller chunks before serving.

As much as possible, have mealtimes with your child so you can watch them as they eat. Keeping tabs on them will also help you pick up food allergies if they have any.

Finally, please note that the serving sizes and food suggestions above can change depending on your preschooler’s health needs. The best course of action is to discuss your child’s diet with their pediatrician.

Learn more about Parenting a Preschooler here.

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

Picture of the author
Medical reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Updated Dec 30, 2020
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