Healthy Food Ideas for 1 to 5 year olds


November 12, 2011

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One to five year olds are always on the go and need a wide variety of foods for growth and health.  We have some great tips from Bord Bia on healthy food ideas for feeding a preschooler and helping to ensure your child is eating a balanced diet.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Offer a range of different foods over the course of the week and your child is likely to get the nutrition they need. There is no need to cook special meals; use foods all the family enjoy.

The best way to ensure that your child is eating a balanced diet is to offer a wide range of different foods each day. To help make this task a little easier, the main foods in our diet can be divided into food groups, as below. By selecting the right amounts from each of the food groups, you can meet your child’s nutritional needs.

Cereals, Bread and Potatoes

These foods are high in carbohydrate and provide energy your child needs to be active and play. Include at least one serving at every mealtime.

Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years = 4 servings
3-5 years = 4-6+ servings

One serving is:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 small scone
  • 1 small bowl of breakfast cereal
  • 3 dessertspoons of cooked rice or pasta

Very high fibre diets can be too filling for young children and are not recommended.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. If your child will not eat vegetables, offer more fruit instead, as both have similar nutritional values.

Recommended servings per day:

1-3 years: 2-4 servings
2-4 years: 4 or more servings
5 years onwards: 5 servings

One serving is:

  • 7. Food1 piece of fresh fruit e.g. pear, banana, apple, orange
  • Half glass of fruit juice (dilute with plenty of water)
  • small bowl tinned or stewed fruit or fresh fruit salad
  • small bowl of homemade vegetable soup
  • Carrot, celery, pepper or cucumber sticks
  • 2 tablespoons of cooked vegetables
  • 3 dessertspoons salad

Raw vegetables are often popular with children; remember to wash and peel before eating. Frozen vegetables are as good as fresh.

Milk, Cheese and Yoghurt

These foods are the best source of calcium, which is essential for bone development.

Three servings a day are recommended.

Suggested servings:

• 1 glass of milk (200 mls)
• 1 carton of yoghurt
• 25g (1 oz) of hard cheese (size of matchbox)
• 2 cheese singles
• 1 yoghurt drink or 2 fromage frais
• small bowl of milk pudding

Cheese, milk and yoghurt can be used in cooking without affecting the calcium content. Custard, cheese on toast or pizza are popular ways to increase your child’s calcium intake.

While milk is an important part of a child’s diet the amount consumed should not exceed one pint a day as large quantities of milk may reduce appetite and prevent your child from eating a mixture of foods that are necessary at this important time in their growth and development.

Low fat milk is not a suitable drink for children under 2 years of age and should only be used after that age in children with a good appetite and varied diet. Skimmed milk is not recommended before the age of five.

Meat, fish and alternatives

Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are good sources of protein which is essential for growth and development. Pulses (peas, beans, lentils) also provide protein.

Two servings a day are recommended.

Suggested servings:

• one small lamb or pork chop
• 2 eggs
• 2 slices meat or chicken
• medium fillet of fish
• 6 tablespoons of beans peas or lentils

Children’s appetites vary, offer smaller portions to younger children. They can decide on their own appetite so don’t force them to clear their plates.

What’s your experience with feeding your preschooler? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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