Feeding your 3 or 4 year old can be such a challenging time. I thought I'd offer some tips which I've learned from my training and also what worked with my kids.
- First get to know how much your children should be eating and look at the pattern over a week not a day. Children have small stomachs so don't expect them to eat adult portions. The parent is responsible for what, when and where our child is eating, but it should be left to the child to decide whether they want to eat, and how much. When children are allowed to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, they are more in tune with their hunger cues, and better able to maintain their energy levels
- Your toddler will have developed food likes and dislikes, and their appetite will differ depending on how active they have been and whether they are going through a growth spurt. So don't worry if they eat a lot of food some days and little on others. As long as they are getting a wide range of different foods over the course of a week they will be getting the nutrients they need.
- Associate food that your child likes (for example cherry tomatoes) with new food (for example asparagus).
- If you have a friend with a child who eats well encourage some shared meals as positive peer modelling helps establish healthy eating behaviours. My children had such a fabulous introduction to spaghetti vongole (clams) by enjoying it with friends their age
- Parental modelling - studies have shown that children are more likely to try a food if they see their parent eating it. A well controlled trial found that eating a previously disliked vegetable was increased following two weeks of exposure, encouragement to eat the vegetable and the parent modelling eating and liking the veggies (think about your own childhood here - I still don't like broccoli since having it referred to as my "horrible" vegetable that I was forced to eat.)
- If your child is hungry just before dinner, this is a great time to give them the veggie part of the meal - say some carrots, beans, snow peas and cherry tomatoes
- Don't let your child over consume milk. Milk is a great, nutritious food but drinking more than 600 mL a day can fill up tummies and stop room for other food sources, plus block iron absorption.
My favourite meals for preschoolers:
Rachel is a university qualified Clinical Nutritionist based in Balmain. She is also the busy working mum of two teenagers, so is practical and realistic with her advice . Rachel offers private consultations to improve your family's health and well-being. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.