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Strategies for Feeding a Preschooler

During the preschool years, kids go from toddlers who throw tantrums to kids who are more willing to cooperate and want to please their parents. They also want to do things themselves, but are willing to learn from mom and dad. This give-and-take creates opportunities for parents to teach kids about healthy food choices in new and exciting ways.

A balanced diet gives kids the nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development and the energy for exploration. Through eating right and playing a lot, preschoolers can maintain a healthy weight and stay energized as they get ready for the next big step in their young lives: kindergarten.

A Parent's Role

Guiding a child's eating habits is delicate work. You want to encourage kids to make good choices, but without hovering or pestering.

Take charge by presenting mostly healthy foods, but don't teach that certain foods are "bad." You want your preschooler to eat enough nutritious food, but you don't want to start negotiating the number of bites of dinner that must be eaten to get dessert.

At a parent's request, a preschooler may be willing to try new foods — especially if mom and dad are eating the same thing. There's nothing wrong with serving foods you know your child likes, but they shouldn't always be on the menu. Serve a variety of foods and don't cater to a child's limited palate. Don't fall into the trap of fixing a meal specifically for your child that is different from your own — before you know it, you will be fixing two dinners every night.

It may seem illogical but it's better to present a range of foods, even if your child sometimes refuses to eat anything on the plate. It's normal to want your child to eat at dinner, but it's also important to know that skipping one meal will not harm healthy kids. Let your child know food will be available at the next regular meal or snack time.

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