The foods and drinks your preschooler has throughout the day are important for his or her health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy are a part of a healthy eating style and together provide the nutrients their bodies need. Limit the amount of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat in your preschooler’s meals, drinks, and snacks.
Fruits – Focus on whole fruits
- Serve a rainbow of choices. Fruit can be a quick and easy way to make meals and snacks healthier and more colorful.
- Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits. Purchase canned fruit in water or 100% fruit juice instead of syrup.
- Limit fruit juice. While 100% fruit juice can be part of a healthy diet, it does not contain the dietary fiber found in other forms of fruit.
- Offer raisins or other unsweetened dried fruit instead of chewy fruit snacks or strips, which usually contain very little fruit.
Vegetables – Vary your veggies
- Serve a variety of colorful choices. Brighten children’s plates with red, orange, and dark-green vegetables.
- Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables. Prepare and serve vegetables without added salt or solid fat.
- Try a dip. Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower.
Grains – Make half your grains whole grains
- Make at least half their grains whole grains by offering 100% whole-grain cereals, breads, and pasta.
- Vary the choices for whole grains. Rolled oats, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, wheat berries, and millet are whole-grain foods.
- Choose toppings wisely for toast, hot cereals, pasta, and rice. Instead of adding butter, stick margarine, and regular full-fat cheese, use vegetable oils, low-fat cheeses, or marinara sauce as toppings.
Protein Foods – Vary your protein routine
- Choose a variety of protein foods such as seafood, beans, lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
- Limit highly processed poultry, fish, or meat (like hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks). Even some “reduced-fat” meats and cold cuts, like sausage, bologna, and salami, may be high in saturated fat and sodium.
- Add beans to children's favorite foods. Add beans and peas to tacos, casseroles, stews, pastas, and side dishes.
Dairy – Move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt
- Serve unflavored, fat-free, and low-fat milks most often. They have less added sugar and fewer calories than flavored, whole, or reduced-fat milk.
- Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese provide much needed calcium. Try making a dip for fruits or vegetables from yogurt.
- Blend dairy into smoothies. Combine low-fat or fat-free yogurt with bananas and cocoa powder for a smoothie, or try milk, ice cubes, and frozen berries.