Serve Up Good Nutrition for Preschool Children
Get even picky eaters to eat healthfully – with a minimum of fuss.
Encourage a Healthy Weight continued...
When researchers served preschoolers a double portion of macaroni and
cheese, the children took bigger bites and ate more. But when the researchers
placed the double-sized portion in a serving bowl and let the children serve
themselves, the children chose an appropriate amount of food for their ages:
about a 1/2-cup portion for 3-year-olds and 3/4 cup for 4 and 5-year-olds.
Limiting television -- even educational shows -- also improves preschoolers'
chances for a healthy weight. Three-year-olds who watched two or more hours of
television daily were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than
children who watched less, according to recent research in the Archives of
Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
"It's tempting to allow a preschooler to watch TV so that you can get a
few minutes to yourself, but it's a tough habit to break," Mitchell says.
And while Mitchell, a mother of two, does not expect parents to banish
television, she is adamant about separating eating and the television set.
What's the problem with eating in front of the TV? Writing in the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers recently
found that preschoolers of normal weight who often eat while watching
television tend to eat more, possibly because they are distracted from normal
cues for fullness.
Fend Off Food Fits
Preschoolers can be picky eaters. They may favor the same few foods for
weeks on end, in spite of your attempts at variety. You can't stop children
from fussing about food, but you can control the way you react to their demands
for chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese every day.
The temptation is to prepare only the foods you are sure your young child
will accept. But resist that urge.
Johnson, also a mom, recommends playing down entrenched food preferences
while continuing to offer a variety of choices.
"Most children will eventually get bored and at least start picking at
the other foods you offer, as long as you don't engage them in a power struggle
at the table," she says.
It's normal to become concerned when a child continues to choose the same
limited diet. While you're waiting for your child to snap out of his eating
rut, put your mind at ease by offering a daily multivitamin appropriate for
your child's age. Multivitamins fill in small nutrient gaps in a picky eater's
diet, particularly for iron -- a nutrient that's critical to a child's brain
development, immune system and energy level.