During the preschool years, your child will go from being a picky eater toddler to having a more adventurous palate. Take this as an opportunity to teach your young ones about eating healthy. But what exactly encompasses a balanced diet for kids? Let's find out below.
At ages three to five, your child becomes more imaginative, playful, and active1. It’s no wonder they get hungry all the time. Even so, you’ll find it difficult to bring your child to sit still and eat full meals since they’re more interested in play times during this stage. But don’t worry because they are also more willing to learn from you, and sometimes, even imitate your eating habits2. Take this opportunity to be smart and creative when feeding them as part of your regime of achieving a balanced diet for kids. You’d want your kid’s tummy filled up as well as fill in the nutritional gaps, especially if you have a picky eater in your midst.
Helping your kid develop healthy eating habits can be challenging. But serving a variety of food can make mealtimes more interesting and flavorful. It’s the key to a balanced diet for kids because it provides the necessary nutrients needed for growth and development. Along with filling their plates with full-set courses, it’s also important to serve well-timed, healthy snacks for kids to even out spikes in hunger and avoid meltdowns. Consider the following food to encourage a well-rounded diet.
Building a healthy eating plate
To guide you in preparing your child’s meals, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology developed “Pinggang Pinoy”—food recommendations, including the right proportions, for every age group. Considering a 1,300-calorie diet, your child’s daily meals should include the following3:
- Go: This includes rice and other carbohydrate-rich food like bread, pasta, and root crops. These should take at least little more than half of his or her plate. Example: half cup rice or 2 pieces small pan de sal
- Grow: This includes protein-rich food like chicken, lean meat, fatty fish, and eggs. Serving size should be the same with that of fruits which is less than half the plate. Grow food also includes milk and other dairy products. Example: 15 grams lean meat or ½ piece of small chicken egg
- Glow: For vegetables, it should be the same amount as your rice or chosen carbohydrates. On the other hand, fruits should be of the same amount as your protein.
Ideally, a balanced diet for kids should cover an adequate serving of these core food groups. But that’s easier said than done. Some children can be more picky, while some find it difficult to finish their meals. In this case, offer healthy snacks instead. These will help curb their hunger throughout the day.
Healthy snacks as part of a balanced diet for kids
Preschoolers tend to get hungry really fast, especially in between meals even if most don’t eat much in one sitting. At this age, your child may eat up to six times a day—three main meals and two to three snacks each interval4.
Good nibbles for children are often a beneficial way to sneak in more nutrients to maintain a balanced diet for kids. Opt for whole food instead of packaged snacks that will provide them with more energy and nutrition. Below are examples of healthy snacks for kids:
- Hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are considered as a quick, high-protein treat. One large egg is already packed with vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Some also contain Omega-3 fatty acids which help in proper brain development5.
- Oatmeal. Breakfast food also makes for a great afternoon snack. Oats are high in fiber which aids in good digestion6. Flavored oatmeal packets are high in sugar so it’s best to use whole rolled oats instead. Add low-fat milk and mix it with fruits and cinnamon for sweetness. If your young one doesn’t like the texture, you can always opt for dried cereal and just mix it with nuts or fruits for added crunch as a form of balanced diet for kids.
- Sweet potato. If you’re a working parent and you need to feed your child something nutritious but won't take long to prepare, sweet potato or kamote works best. Wash one large potato, poke holes in it and microwave for a few minutes. You can choose to mash them or cut them into bite-sized pieces. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. If you have time to spare, you can also create fries with it. Just cut the sweet potato into wedge form and oven bake it instead of frying. Remember not to over-salt them as well.
- Nuts and seeds. Swap those processed snack packs with a generous mix of nuts and seeds. These are good sources of healthy fats, along with fiber and antioxidants. Although nuts are likely to trigger an allergic reaction, recent research says that incorporating these in your child’s diet and at an early age can lower the risk.
- Vegetables. For most parents, getting your child to eat vegetables can be quite the challenge. However, the more color and variety you serve, the better. Vegetables always get a bad rep among the little ones so one trick is to make them more appealing and accessible. For example, cut a stalk of celery into pieces and serve with other variants of flavor like peanut butter or raisins. These three alone provide protein, carbs, and fats. The same goes for carrots and hummus, as well as sliced pears topped with ricotta cheese. If all else fails, you can always whip up a smoothie and just add honey or fruits for added flavor.
- Milk. And to wash it down, a glass of milk is a healthier alternative than powdered juices. Milk and other dairy products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. If your child doesn’t have the appetite or isn’t able to finish his or her food, have him or her drink the nutrients instead. Opt for those packed with nutrients that can support your child’s development. Enfagrow A+ Four is the only milk formula made with MFGM Pro, as well as DHA, Beta Glucan, and Prebiotics—all of which are necessary to help boost immunity and brain development7.
As a parent, it is your duty to make sure that your child gets the necessary nutrients for him or her to be strong and healthy by carefully preparing meals. This is pivotal in achieving a balanced diet for kids. Teaching your child to make better food choices will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Start today!
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1 Preschoolers (3-5 years of age) (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 18, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/preschoolers.html
2 Preschooler Nutrition (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 19, 2020 from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=preschooler-nutrition-90-P02273
3 Pinggang Pinoy Kids (2016). Retrieved Aug 18, 2020 from https://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/images/sources/PinggangPinoy-Kids.pdf
4 Smart Snacking (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 19, 2020 from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/snacking.html#:~:text=Here%20are%20some%20snacks%20that,low%2Dfat%20milk%20or%20yogurt
5 Eggs: the uncracked potential for improving maternal and young child nutrition among the world's poor (2014). Retrieved Aug 19, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24807641/
6 Oatmeal porridge: impact on microflora-associated characteristics in healthy subjects (2016). Retrieved Aug 19, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26511097/
7 Enfagrow A+ Four (n.d.) Retrieved August 19, 2020 from https://www.enfagrow.com.ph/enfagrow-A4?kl4&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1aykw5um6wIVkqqWCh3P4A22EAAYASAAEgIxdfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds