Worried about your preschooler's nutrition? Here's a sample diet chart to help you

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Expert dietitian Pavithra N Raj, from the Columbia Asia hospital in Bangalore, crafts a diet chart to take care of the nutrition needs of your preschoolers.

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Good nutrition is the bedrock of lifelong health, but what many people don't know is that it begins in infancy. Healthy eating can stabilize children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods. Between peer pressure and the constant television commercials for junk foods, getting children to eat well might seem more futile than fruitful.

However, there are simple steps that parents can take to instill healthy eating habits in their kids, without turning mealtimes into a battle zone. Attention to diet early in life is essential to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetic, hypertension later.

Handy tips to promote healthy childhood eating

1. Have regular family meals:

  • Knowing food is served at approximately the same time every night and that the entire family will be sitting down together is comforting and enhances appetite.
  • Breakfast is another great time for a family meal, especially since kids who eat breakfast tend to do better in school.

2. Cook more meals at home

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  • Eating home cooked meals is healthier for the whole family and sets a great example for kids about the importance of food.
  • Restaurant meals tend to have more fat, sugar, and salt.

3. Get kids involved:

  • Children enjoy helping adult’s grocery shopping, selecting what goes in their lunch box, and preparing food.
  • It's also a chance for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods and, for older children, how to read food labels.

4. Make a variety of healthy snacks available instead of empty calorie snacks:

  • Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages (water, milk, fresh fruit juice)

5. Limit portion sizes:

  • Don’t insist your child finish all the served food, and never use food as a reward or bribe.

6. Be a good role model:

  • Children learn habits for nutritious eating and active living by watching others.
  • Parents and other caregivers are the child's most influential teachers.

Continue reading on the next page to see a sample diet chart for your preschooler

7. Respect your child's appetite and food preferences:

  • Children should not be forced to eat; instead the cause for the unwillingness should be determined.
  • Your child's rate of growth will vary during these years, and so will his or her appetite.
  • Food preferences may also change as your child develops new tastes, and there is no single "must eat" food.
  • To promote dental health, infants should be fed and brushed and then put to bed without milk, juice or food.
  • The food should be in form that is easy to handle and eat. Meat should be cut into bite-size pieces. Vegetables should be mashed so that they can be eaten easily with a spoon. Raw fruits and vegetables should be in pieces that can be picked up easily.
  • In addition, utensils should be small and manageable. Cups should be easy to hold, and dishes should be designed so that they do not drip over easily.

Sample diet chart for your preschooler

Here's a sample diet chart for your preschooler that you can try:

Breakfast 7:30 – 8:00 am (or as per school timings)

  • 2 Idli/dosa with chutney + Sambar with 1 cup milk or
  • Upma 1 cup + milk 1 cup or
  • Chapati roll (with vegetables) or
  • Milk 1 glass + 2 veg / Soya or tofu or paneer sandwich or
  • Mixed nuts 1 handful

Mid-morning snack (10:30 am – 11:30 am) (at home/school)

  • 1 vegetable / soya chunks roll or
  • 2 bread slice with paneer / tofu + 1 fruit or
  • Upma 1 cup or
  • Idli 2 with chutney or
  • 2 puri and vegetables

Lunch (1:30-2:00 pm)

Rice or 2 chapati + dal (green gram/ rajma/ kabuli Channa ) +1 cup cooked vegetables mixed with 1 tsp of ghee or Veg rice with soya chunks or paneer + curd 1 cup 

Evening snack (5pm)

  • Sprouted Gram / Boiled corns 1 cup or
  • Veg Soup (no instant soups) [vegetable / dal / palak/ Chicken] or
  • Fruits/ fresh juice 200ml + puffed rice ½ cup / snack (not fried) / vegetable cutlet, bread pizza (Homemade) /Chikki (ground nut, sesame seeds) 1 piece
  • Mixed nuts 1 handful

Dinner (8: 00 pm)
Same as lunch with 1 cup dessert.

Bedtime: 1 glass milk

 Also note:

  • All seasonal fruits should be preferred
  • Carrot, potato, green leafy vegetables(daily), beetroot, white pumpkin, sweet pumpkin, bottle gourd, snake gourd, chow chow marrow, ridge gourd are the vegetables that are a must for your child at this age.
  • Avoid packed & processed foods, tea, coffee, cold drinks, packed chips, burger & pizza with added aginomoto.
  • Include iron-rich foods in the diet.

While the following diet chart is crafted under expert supervision, these recommendations are intended to be guidelines. Look at your individual baby and follow his/her lead. He or she will not necessarily require solid food, drink from a cup, tolerate textured food, or enjoy finger foods at the same age as your friend’s children.

Always remember that each baby is unique. Babies vary in appetite, enjoyment of food, intensity of hunger and focus on eating — as opposed to playing and interacting with you. By watching your baby closely, you'll come to understand his or her eating habits and recognize when they are disrupted.

Don't worry about how much, how often and how regularly your baby eats. As long as he or she grows normally and spends more time contented than fussy, you can assume that you're meeting your baby's basic nutritional needs. If you have questions about these guidelines, please contact your doctor or dietician.

Also read: Give wings to your creativity to tackle food tantrums of your little monsters

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Written by

Pavithra N. Raj