Healthy snacks to include in our preschooler’s diet (3-8 years old)

Preschoolers need a diverse diet that includes all food principles as their main activity at this age is playing which involves a lot of movement and therefore requires more energy.

Moreover, if they also practice a sport in an organized environment then their meals must be consistent and adjusted to sustain their growth pace and additional energy consumption. The diet should contribute to increasing the capacity of defense against infections and diseases, so common with the entering of a collective of children.

Starting with the age of 3 the transition to family food habits is recommended as long as they observe a regular meal schedule and avoid unhealthy foods, especially those which undertake industrial processing ( convenience foods, canned foods, cold cuts, smoked foods, etc.) . The thermal process of preparation is also important so fried foods, roux and excess animal fats are not recommended.

For children between the ages of 3 to 8 years old the required calorie intake is 80-90 kcal / kg /day which can then be adapted according to age, sex and of course physical activity, especially if it is sustained physical activity.

Thus at three years of age an average of 1300 kcal/day is needed, 1500kcal at 4 years old, 1600 kcal at 5 years old until at 8 years old the required calories reach over 1800 kcal / day.

These are only recommendations, you should not start weighing and calculating the calories of foods, as long as a child is active and well developed in terms of motor skills and mental skills and as long as the growth in height and weight is in accordance with the requirements of age, that means that the necessary intake is ensured and you needn’t “stuff” your child with supplements or extra snacks to increase appetite.

The growth rate is not a continuous one after the age of 3 years old, but in leaps, thus explaining the varying appetite correlated with periods of stagnation and respectively growth. Weight gain can stand a few months and then the child can start gaining weight again, so do not worry in such situations.

The snacks offered to children should ensure a balance of protein, carbohydrates  and fats , as well as the appropriate amount of fibers , vitamins  and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, etc.)

Chicken nsandwich for preschoolers

Sources of protein for the healthy snacks of children from 3 to 8 years old

Chicken or turkey is ideal for delicious sandwiches – about 40-60 g daily;

Eggs – indispensable in a child’s diet (recommended 2 to 3 times / week), chicken or even quail, always eaten fresh and cooked enough;

Milk must be found daily in preschool meals but it should not exceed 400-500 ml / day

Here are other sources of protein for the snacks of our children: natural yogurt (2-4%), cottage cheese, cow / goat cheese, sweet curd, sweet cow / sheep cheese, sour cream (15-20%).

Carbohydrate sources for the healthy snacks of preschoolers

Carbohydrates play an energetic and structural role (brain, heart, blood cells, muscles cannot function in their absence), the most important being the complex type starch grains (wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, rice), legumes/vegetables, potatoes, bananas, followed by lactose, fructose and galactose, sugar should not exceed 15 to 20 g / day;

For the preparation of healthy snacks we should use:

Cereals : bread must be included in the diet of small children, preferably the one obtained from whole wheat flour  (brown bread) in the amount of 120-140 g / day;

Flaked grains, can be very popular with children and can, along with a dairy product, be considered adequate for a morning snack.

We do not recommend sweetened cereals that have a high amount of added sugar, flavorings, and additives.

If you want to include something sweet, you can use maple syrup, dates syrup, figs, dates or dry prunes/plums.

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of carbohydrates, and can be used for preparing lunch snacks for preschoolers. Just beware of possible allergies and also further attention should be given to seeds and nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds) mainly because of the danger of chocking.

Lipids (or better said fats) are very important in the diet of children of 3-8 years by having an essential role in growth and development especially in the maturation of the nervous system, in brain development, and in the absorption of certain vitamins.

Here we have three sources and three types of fat :

Saturated fats from meat, milk, cream, butter which should be used with caution, avoiding fatty meats, lard, and cold cuts. Dairy products must have an average fat content and you should never give a normal weight child dietary yogurt. Butter is essential and contains large amounts of vitamin A and D so use it in preparing sandwiches. Do not replace butter with margarine, as it is one of the unhealthiest products used in children’s foods.

Monounsaturated fats, having olive oil as the main source of these types of fats, whose beneficial role is known by everyone and must be part of the child’s diet but shouldn’t exceed 1-2 tablespoons / day and can be added to salads or vegetable purées.

For the third type of fats we must include fish in our child’s diet due to its high amount of omega 3 fatty acids.  It’s hard to be included in snacks, but a sandwich can save us.

It is very important how you serve food as well … it should look appetizing to make them curious enough to taste, they also like to serve themselves, to eat on their own and you should also encourage them in this direction so they will enjoy eating, otherwise you risk turning it into an unpleasant refusal event, with a lot of crying and hard work on your part.

For a healthy child a fixed amount of food shouldn’t be imposed, appetite and his preferences will determine his daily consumption.

The child’s appetite is variable from day to day, and is heavily influenced by the daily eating habits of the family and therefore the role of parents is essential, the power of example is very important in order for children to acquire healthy eating habits.

Practical tips :

-          Stick to the meal schedule;

-          Family meals should be taken not in front of the TV or during activities (e.g. many children eat while playing);

-          Small portions, age-appropriate, appealing and attractive;

-          Do not provide alternatives if the child refuses one of the meals and no munching until the next meal;

-          Use a reward system (e.g. “go eat so we can go to the park and play,” etc.), not blackmail (e.g. “if you do not eat everything I won’t buy you a toy”, etc.)

Give your child healthy family eating examples, if they are interested let them participate in shopping, and explain to them why the foods that you buy are necessary for them or let them help in the kitchen preparing and serving food.

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