Preschool Snack Time: Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Preschool snack time is an important opportunity for teachers to educate their students about healthy eating habits and nutritious foods. Most preschools provide healthful snacks for preschoolers between meals, which allows centers to teach students about eating well and taking care of their bodies. Half of all three and four year-old children attend a preschool or childcare center according to futureofchildren.org, which indicates that these facilities have a major influence on children’s ideas about nutrition.

Much of a preschooler’s diet is consumed throughout the school day, therefore allowing centers to provide well-rounded food options. It is disconcerting that many preschool-age children view high-fat foods filled with sugars and sodium as viable snack choices. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 20 percent of 2-5 year-olds suffer from obesity or are overweight.

Starting to teach healthy eating at a young age is the best way for parents and teachers to ensure that these ideals will follow preschoolers into adulthood. Good habits are much easier to form during a child’s adolescence, and bad habits are much more difficult to break once a person gains maturity. Creating a pattern of eating well, in addition to verbally encouraging children to try new foods is the best way to get them to develop their own nutritious practices.

What is Recommended for Preschool Snack Time?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables in a variety of different colors, as well as more whole grains. According to the Center for Disease Control and ChooseMyPlate.gov, the five food groups preschoolers should be ingesting are fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. While all children are different and will eat different amounts of food, ChooseMyPlace.gov recommends the following for general preschool-age consumption:

Food Group 2 year olds 3 year olds 4 and 5 year olds
Fruits 1 cup 1-1.5 cups 1-1.5 cups
Vegetables 1 cup 1.5 cups 1.5-2 cups
Grains 3 ounces 4-5 ounces 4-5 ounces
Proteins 2 ounces 3-4 ounces 3-5 ounces
Dairy 2 cups 2 cups 2.5 cups

Less than 50 percent of preschoolers are eating enough fruits and vegetables. Exposing these children to new fruit and vegetable options will help them to discover different tastes and textures, and will hopefully encourage them to try new things. Intake of these types of healthful foods will result in numerous health benefits.

Parents of Preschoolers Play a Role, Too

A preschool-age child’s eating habits usually reflect those of his or her household, which is where the foundation for healthy consumption should be built. Parents can work together with preschools to learn how to prepare well-rounded meals for their children, and stay up-to-date with current government recommendations.

Several preschools will offer programs for parents to be engaged in their children’s nutrition, including take-home information and chaperoning opportunities. Preschool teachers are also willing to connect with parents when it comes to their children’s eating habits. Keeping the communication lines open is the best way for both parties to be sure that the child’s best interest is in mind.

Preschool-age children are ideal for absorbing clean and healthy eating habits, as they are inherently curious and full of energy. At this age, children love to move, play and learn new things. Therefore, incorporating these characteristics into a nutrition plan can be made fun and motivational.

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