Preschooler 2-3 years
Parent provides, Child decides
It's important for you to take leadership in feeding your preschooler. You decide what foods come into the house, and you decide what gets put on the table for mealtimes.
It's also important for your child to take leadership for their own body. They decide what to eat from the things you serve. They also decide how much to eat.
Do your job and let your child do theirs. Feeding your child this way minimizes feeding problems like picky eating, overeating, undereating and mealtime battles. Learn more below.
Feeding tips for preschoolers
Have set meal and snack times
Preschoolers can wait to eat with the family.
Don’t let your child graze on snacks all day.
Grazing leads to picky eating and poor nutrition.
Sit down and eat with your child at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Have 1-2 sit down snacks at set times in between.
Try and keep meal times consistent.
Let your child decide how much to eat
It’s normal for a preschool to eat a lot one day and nothing the next.
Let your child decide how much to eat at meals.
Let your child get down when he’s done.
Then say no to snacking after the meal.
You’ve done your job by providing food and setting boundaries.
Don't pressure your child to eat, it's best to let him decide how much and what to eat.
Say no to grazing
Having planned sit down snacks at the same time every day is okay. Grazing all day is not okay. If you hand out snacks all day, every time your child asks, he will not be hungry for healthy foods at mealtime. If you have trouble with your child eating well, make sure he is not grazing. For reference, a child this age should be offered a meal or snack about every 3-4 hours. Water should be offered all day, but no juice or milk between meals.
Only allow water between meals
Do not let your child carry a sippy cup of milk or juice around the house. This limits her appetite for nutritious foods at mealtime and can cause tooth decay.
Limit soda and juice
Only keep water and milk on hand. Juice and soda have too much sugar for your preschooler, save them for special occasions. Juice and soda can cause cavities. Never let your child sip on juice or soda all day.
Switch to lowfat milk
At 2 years, your baby is ready for lower fat milk. Choose 1% or 2% fat instead of whole milk.
Don't buy special foods for kids
Feed your child the same foods you eat. Don’t buy kid yogurt or chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. These foods have too much added sugar and salt. Kids can eat everything adults eat, even spicy foods. If you buy separate foods for your child, you can expect to have a picky eater who refuses to eat what you eat. Prevent that problem by offering your child the same foods you enjoy eating.
Prevent your child from choking
Always make your child sit down while eating. Avoid giving your child hard round foods. Cut hot dogs or grapes into quarters lengthwise. Cook veggies and meats until soft and cut into ¼-½ inch pieces. Spread peanut butter thin on bread. Chop nuts into small pieces.
Ask your Family Advocate to schedule a visit with the Registered Dietitian.
One-on-one consults are available over zoom.
Almost any time or day can be accommodated.
Common topics to discuss with the Registered Dietitian:
How to understand your toddler
How to feed your toddler
Child-friendly feeding tips
Understand your preschooler
How to feed your preschooler
How to handle the picky eater
What kind of parent will you be?
Ellyn satter videos
The following short videos (about 1 minute each) are available through your Family Advocate
Preschool eating competence. Do your jobs; don’t do your child’s.
Flora 4.5 yr 1:40
Positive family meal. Child self reliant, coordinated, hungry.
Jake 5 yr 2:50
Parent interference: Utensils, clean plate
Annie 4.5 yr 0:57
Preschool wiggling, talking. Can’t sit still.
Tiara 4 yr 2:25
Child eats a lot, father interferes. Undermines internal regulation.
Shaun 3.5 yr 1:58
High parent interference, pressure to eat green beans.
Gracie 5 yr 2:48
Child overweight. Parents dictate what, how much; child compliant.
Undermining internal regulation.
Luis 5 yr 1:01
Inadvertent neglect in positive context.
Jacqueline 3 yr 1:50
Inadvertent neglect. TV at meal. Social isolation. Attention only
around food. Learning to eat for emotional reasons.
Keep feeding this way throughout your child’s growing-up years.