Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Westport
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Health Information For Parents
During the preschool years, kids go from toddlers who throw tantrums to kids who are more willing to cooperate and want to please their parents. They also want to do things themselves, but are willing to learn from mom and dad. This give-and-take creates opportunities for parents to teach kids about healthy food choices in new and exciting ways.
A balanced diet gives kids the nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development and the energy for exploration. Through eating right and active play, preschoolers can maintain a healthy weight and stay energized as they get ready for the next big step in their young lives: kindergarten.
Guiding a child’s eating habits is delicate work. You want to encourage kids to make good choices, but without hovering or pestering.
Take charge by presenting mostly healthy foods, but don’t teach that certain foods are “bad.” You want your preschooler to eat enough nutritious food, but you don’t want to start negotiating the number of bites of dinner that must be eaten to get dessert.
At a parent’s request, a preschooler may be willing to try new foods — especially if mom and dad are eating the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with serving foods you know your child likes, but they shouldn’t always be on the menu. Serve a variety of foods and don’t cater to a child’s limited palate. Don’t fall into the trap of fixing a meal specifically for your child that is different from your own — before you know it, you will be fixing two dinners every night.
It may seem illogical but it’s better to present a range of foods, even if your child sometimes refuses to eat anything on the plate. It’s normal to want your child to eat at dinner, but it’s also important to know that skipping one meal will not harm healthy kids. Let your child know food will be available at the next regular meal or snack time.
To encourage a well-rounded diet:
Parents may feel uneasy about giving preschoolers control over how much they eat. But it’s a limited kind of control. The parent is responsible for setting the schedule for meals and snacks and deciding which foods to serve. A child of 4 shouldn’t be getting his or her own snacks but can be given a choice and allowed to decide whether to eat or not.
Preschoolers are old enough to begin understanding the concept of being full, known as satiety. Kids who stop eating when they feel satisfied are less likely to become overweight. Most kids naturally know if they’re hungry or full and can use these cues to properly control their food intake. Kids who are encouraged to ignore these cues may learn to override this internal control mechanism.
If your child chooses not to eat at a scheduled meal or snack time, try to avoid arguing about it or being critical. Staying neutral and calm will prevent the bigger problems that can arise when parents and kids battle over food.
Waistlines have been expanding over the last few decades. Part of the problem is what we eat, but another is quantity. Are our plates simply piled too high?
What you put in the grocery cart can affect your child’s health and attitude toward nutritious food.
It may take a little flexibility and prep work, but time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be a culinary adventure you’ll both enjoy.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here’s how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.