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Recommended Diet for Children 3 Years and Up

Maria Luisa B. Caparas-Panlilio, MD, DPPS, MSc (Public Health Nutrition)

3 mins to read Aug 19, 2020

The 2018 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) study illustrated how sweets displaced the more important food in the diet. It is therefore crucial that children starting at a young age be trained and inspired to eat healthy by focusing on the nutrients in the simple lessons of “go, grow, and glow” food taught in preschool.

Food behavior during preschool years

Children within the preschool years display heightened curiosity. It is during this period that they are better at socializing with peers and can better express their needs and preferences especially with food. This is the best time when healthy eating can be established because children are less oppositional and would want to please their parents. Conversely, it is also during this period when parents and family members should exhibit best behavior in their eating habits since children tend to imitate adults and older siblings.

Planning meals

The diet of preschoolers each day should be planned based on the nutritional principles of balance, variety and moderation (Figure 1). The food group pyramid provides a graphic model of what and how much of the food items should be consumed to meet children’s nutritional and health needs.

Nutrient-filled foods comprising of meat, fruits, vegetables milk and milk products are good sources and should not be missed in their diet since these food items add variety to the current nutrient-poor diet of Filipino children. Milk that is 100% lactose with zero sucrose or zero sugar is recommended to provide the necessary nutrients and similarly protects the child from the less beneficial carbohydrates such as sucrose or table sugar.

Food plate

A simpler way of planning every meal is by the use of the food plate (Figure 2). Partitioning the plate into food portions that provide essential nutrients is easy to remember and simple to follow.

The food plate helps you see the food that make a healthy meal. Each meal should have a serving of fruit, vegetable, protein (e.g. meat, poultry, seafood, egg), grains (e.g., wheat, rice, oats, bread), and dairy (e.g., milk). Look for food that is low in sodium and replace highly-sugared drinks with milk or water.

The daily diet of preschoolers should be planned based on the nutritional principles of balance, variety, and moderation. Children should be trained and inspired to eat healthy “go, grow, and glow” food. Parents and older family members should also serve as role models for healthy eating behaviors.


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