Meal Planning Tips
- Adopt the philosophy: I am responsible for offering healthy food; my child is responsible for deciding how much to eat. Children are born with the ability to regulate their food intake to meet their growth and energy needs without overeating. This ability can be weakened if parents try to tightly control what, when, and how much food their child eats.
- Offer 3 meals and 2 snacks daily. Portion sizes should be small, preschool children be offered 1 tablespoon of each food for every year of age, with more provided according to appetite.
- Follow a regular meal schedule.
- Present a variety of foods with different tastes, colors, temperatures, and textures.
- Don't center the diet on a single food; it may lead to nutritional imbalances.
- Include a variety of the 5 major food groups in the diet:
- Dairy–milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes
- Cereals, grains, breads, pasta, and rice
- Foods from all basic food groups do not need to be eaten every day. A varied, balanced diet should be close to amounts suggested in the Food Guide Pyramid when averaged out over a 2-week period.
- Provide snacks that contribute to a healthy diet. Encourage snacking on raw vegetables, fruits, yogurt, and cheese; discourage snacking on "empty calorie" foods such as soft drinks, candy, and packaged foods such as potato chips.
- Choose foods that your child can easily chew and swallow, especially if your child is younger than 4 years. Avoid foods that are choking hazards, such as hot dogs, peanuts, nuts, grapes, small pieces of raw vegetables, and hard candies.
- Offer a wide variety of wholesome foods and opportunities to try unfamiliar foods.
- Set a good example by enjoying nutritious foods during pleasant mealtimes.
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