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3 - 5yrs Clinic

Eating

Pre-school nutrition basics

Young children are, quiet rightly, lively creatures who need the right fuel for energy and physical and mental development. Unfortunately, even the most willing ‘eat anything’ toddler can turn into a fussy four-year-old who would live of jam sandwiches and slices of cheddar if he could… So making sure you have the basics covered will be important.

The pre-schooler’s daily nutrition – key points

Some days you will tick all the right nutritional boxes, others you might find it’s been all about sandwiches and pieces of fruit rather than square meals. But on average your child’s diet should pan out along the following lines.

•The five-a-day mantra becomes important by the age of three or four, but ideally try to make this three vegetable and two fruit, offering a colourful array of delights for healthily variety.

•For energy, your child will need plenty of starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, potatoes and breakfast cereal. Where possible try to make sure these are not fatty options like chips or very sugary cereals. Get into the habit of reading the labels – you’d be amazed how much salt and sugar can creep into foods aimed directly at small children.

•For calcium, dairy products are great but can be fatty. If your child still enjoys milk, you can opt for a semi-skimmed milk by this age. Try to keep dairy products like yoghurt, cheese and milk to two or three portions maximum.

•Protein is very important but does not need to be a huge part of your child’s diet. Offer two portions of meat or fish, or eggs (or pulses) each day.

•Try to limit treats. Children don’t need sweets every day, and major causes of childhood obesity in the UK are crisps and fizzy drinks. Make these extras feel genuinely like rare special treats rather than a daily event.

SUBHEAD Pre-schooler’s drinking

•Your child can drink milk, water or juice.

•If opting for juice bear in mind that juices like orange tend to have greater nutritional value than apple juice. And be mindful that ‘juice drinks’ are likely to be full of other ingredients not just pure juice.

•As with toddlers, still dilute juice as it can be quite acidic.

•For the sake of your child’s teeth, only give juice with meals and never give juice too close to teeth-cleaning time.


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