It can be quite a challenge to get a fussy 3 or 4 year old to eat a complete, healthy meal. At this age, your child may be a picky eater, only wanting to eat certain foods and throwing a fit over being asked to try anything else. Unfortunately, these foods are typically less than healthy, such as hot dogs, chicken nuggets, or macaroni and cheese. Although this is normal, it’s important to make sure that your active energetic preschooler is receiving adequate nutrition in order to ensure strong bones and appropriate physical development. Even if your preschool-aged child is a picky eater, there are a number of ways to encourage healthy choices. Making good nutrition choices at an early age will help to inspire healthy habits for years to come.
If you’re having trouble getting your child to eat healthy and nutritious foods, here are some helpful suggestions:
- Be a role model. Your child is going to follow your lead, and they’re certainly not going to eat any healthier than you do. If your child sees you eating french fries for dinner, they’re probably not going to be satisfied with rice and broccoli. Set an example for your child, showing them that eating healthy is important. They’ll want to mimic your behavior, and may even want to try something new if Mom is eating it.
- Introduce other foods with their favorite foods. If your child wants to eat chicken nuggets every day, try supplementing the meal with a healthy side dish such as sweet potatoes or broccoli. Your child might not want to eat the new foods at first, but eventually they’ll start to pick at it and see if they like it.
- Talk to your child’s preschool or day care teacher see what kind of foods they’re given during the day. This Blue Springs preschool provides children with healthy snacks and meals in the classroom while also teaching them proper table manners. If you’re concerned with your child’s nutrition while at school, communicate with the teacher and offer suggestions. Junk food doesn’t necessarily need to be eliminated, but make sure cookies and candy are limited.
- Limit TV time. Eating in front of the television can distract children from natural cues telling them that they’re full, which can lead to overeating and obesity. Encourage your child to play outside with friends and engage in some sort of physical activity. You might even want to check to see if your community offers an athletic programs for preschoolers. After your child comes in from playing outdoors, provide them with a healthy snack.
Getting your child to eat a balanced, nutritional meal can be a struggle — but it doesn’t have to be impossible. When you turn healthy choices into an educational opportunity for your young child, you not only ensure their positive development, but you also ensure that they will practice healthy habits in the future. By gradually introducing new, healthy ingredients into your child’s diet, and by “practicing what you preach,” your child will grow up strong and well-equipped to make good decisions for their own health.