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. As a parent you have the responsibility to provide the food and decide where and when the food is served but children can decide how much to eat
- Associate food 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, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and celery
- Don't let your child over consume milk. Milk is a great, nutritious food but drinking more than 600 mL a day can displace room for other food sources, plus block iron absorption.
My favourite meals for preschoolers: