Healthy eating habits/Pre Schooler Nutrition. Know your A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's
Childhood is an important time where parents can help their children develop life long, healthy eating habits. This page is designed to provide practical information for parents of young children to make healthy food choices.
- 1 What do children need?
- 2 Healthy Eating Habits
- 3 Notable Nutrients
- 4 Practical advice
- 5 Take home messages
- 6 Some useful contacts
- 7 References
What do children need?
Adequacy – The Australian Dietary Guidelines  provides current advice for families about the types of foods and the amounts that children need to eat for health and growth. Inadequate nutrition may result in failure to thrive and learning difficulties. Changes in appetite are normal and generally a decrease in appetite correlates with a slowing down of the growth rate.
Balance - Food provides energy and nutrients required for growth and development. A balanced diet ensures their bodies function at optimal performance.
Consistency and Continuity – Children can be fussy eaters. The early years of life are a time when young children establish life long eating patterns and food preferences. A child’s hunger is a parents’ best friend when introducing a new food. Gradual repeated exposures to new foods might assist with food acceptance. Serve new foods in small amounts with familiar and readily accepted foods. It may take 10 or more experiences before a child will accept the food.
Healthy Eating Habits
1. It’s important to let the child eat in response to appetite and to have healthy, nourishing food available. We are born with an incredible ability to respond to our own hunger and fullness. We recommended that parents provide the food to eat and children then decide, whether to eat and how much they want to eat.
2. Eating breakfast and family meal times. Young children’s behaviours are inquisitive in nature, they enjoy imitating others behaviours. Shared meal times are key opportunities to allow independence with feeding and food choices whilst encouraging new foods.
3. General recommendation: 1 tablespoon of food per year of age, more if the child asks for more.
Important for growing bodies, muscle and bone development. Protein can be found in foods such as milk, lean meat, eggs, yoghurt, cheese.
Essential for optimal growth, brain development, the delivery of oxygen around our body and helps to fight off infections. Not enough iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, a condition where the body is unable to produce enough red blood cells for normal functioning. Sources include lean meat, poultry, nuts and legumes.
Supports growth and development, helps fight off infections, healthy skin, appetite. Meat, eggs, dairy, wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds.
Crucial for bone strength, development and muscle function. Aim to include dairy at meals and snacks. Easy ideas include milk with breakfast or in a smoothie, yoghurt as a snack and cheese in a sandwich.
Helps to keep us full and can protect against constipation, bowel cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Enjoy a range of fruits, Vegetables, Wholegrain breads and cereals.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Protect against heart disease and stroke and are important for healthy brains and nerves. Great sources of omega 3’s include fish such as tuna and salmon, red meat, canola oil and walnuts.
Weetbix/Weeties + milk + fruit
Boiled or scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast
Porridge with banana and honey
Untoasted muesli with berries and yoghurt.
Cheese, tomato and lettuce wholegrain sandwich
Chicken and avocado wholegrain sandwich
Vegemite and avocado wholegrain sandwich
Egg and lettuce wholegrain sandwich
Homemade Pizza – Ham/Cheese/Capsicum/Mushrooms/Pineapple
Lamb and vegetable casserole with sweet potato mash
Baked sweet potato + turkey/spinach/cheese/pineapple
Pork stirfry with cauliflower, snow peas and baby corn
Vegetable and lentil soup and bread roll
Meatballs and Mash
Snacks are essential to provide the additional energy and nutrition toddlers require.
Sultanas, carrot sticks and cheese sticks
Fresh fruit – banana, apple, orange, pear, grapes, melon, berries
Smoothies – Milk, yoghurt, Fruit
Low fat yoghurt or a glass of milk
Small homemade muffin
Homemade vegetable pikelets with corn, zucchini and mushroom
Take home messages
Speak about foods as everyday or sometimes foods
Family meals. Only cook one meal for the entire family. Sit down, engage in conversation and enjoy the home cooked meal together
Make food fun and adventurous – “I spy” games to encourage consumption of new food, Vegetables that turn into superheros. Aeroplanes that get shy and hide away.
Use hunger as your best friend when introducing new foods
Don’t use food as a reward for good behaviour. Stickers or stamps are a great alternative.
Some useful contacts
Dietitians Association of Australia: 
Heart Foundation: 
Nutrition Australia: 
Brown, J. E., Isaacs, J.S., Krinke, U.B., Lechtenberg, E., Murtaugh, M.A., & Sharbaugh, C., et al. (2011). Nutrition Through the Life Cycle (4th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, CENGAGE Learning. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013, p 4-40. Retrieved from: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55a_australian_dietary_guidelines_summary_131014.pdf Whitney, E., Rolfes, S., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D. & Walsh, A. (2011). Understanding Nutrition – Australia and New Zealand Edition. Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia Pty Limited.