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Nutritional Needs of your Preschooler

You know your child is growing up so fast. This also means they need plenty of nutrition and energy to sustain them. The early development and growth of your child must be supported by nutrition. If not, it could lead to long-lasting impacts on their health and wellbeing.

Therefore, pay attention to the meals and their nutritional value. Fostering good eating habits in a family is the best foundation for a healthy life.

Your baby survived the first 180 days of his life feeding on breast milk. After this, you gradually shifted his eating habits starting with mashed food to finally introducing solid foods. This transition must be done by the time your child reaches their 1st year. Your child’s body grows both in height and weight during these days.

Did you know close to 80% of an adult’s brain is formed by age 3? This significant development continues until your child is 5 years. So, your toddler/preschooler by this age is increasing in their intellectual capacity. This is the age their curiosity blossoms, as they seek answers and understanding about the world and society around them.

They love to explore and investigate. This enables a mum to be creative. Observe your child’s likes and dislikes. Be creative in presenting food. Make it appealing. Make use of their curiosity to feed them essential nutrients.

Remember your child understands colours, shapes and sizes. Appealing to this is a great way of feeding them food they might not normally eat. Of course, don’t forget they still have small tummies. So don’t overfeed them.

Your child at this age needs to eat 3 main meals plus 2 snacks in-between. Try to include all the essential nutrients into each meal and snack. This will ensure each meal your child takes is packed with extra goodness.

Essential Nutrients your preschooler needs:

  • Energy and Proteins

    Your child lives a highly active lifestyle. They need loads of energy. Carbohydrates such as grains, flour are in high demand. In addition, your child needs protein-rich food such as fish, meats, eggs, legumes.

    In addition to the proteins, food such as fish, meats, eggs also contain essential fats such as Omega-3. Fish oil is one of the best sources of Omega-3. Fats play a vital role in a child’s brain development. So do not dismiss its importance.

    Iron, zinc, copper are minerals contained in most meats, which is an added benefit of giving them meats!

    Legumes too are a rich source of vegetable proteins. However, your child’s body finds it harder to absorb the proteins contained in them compared to meats. Hence, it’s best to give them a mix.

    One thing you can do to improve the absorption of these vegetable proteins is put them in water and let it sprout. These sprouts will now also contain Vitamins B & D. In addition to its extra nutritional value, your child will find this a fascinating meal.

  • Calcium

    During this age of fast muscle and bone development, your child’s body will demand lots of calcium. These needs can be met by ‘milk’ products, small fish such as ‘halmasso.’ Frying these small fish will enable your child to consume it in full including their tiny bones which have a high concentration of calcium. Don’t forget that calcium is essential for your child to develop strong teeth too. Always try to be creative in your cooking this will make feeding your child easy.

  • Foods such as fish, eggs, meats, legumes are high sources of calcium. Here are some examples.
    • Fish: Saalaya, Haalmasso, Kumbalaawa, Kaaralla, crabs
    • Milk products: Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt, Curd
    • Green vegetables: Kathurumurunga, Katu thampala, Karapincha, Mukunuwanna, Murunga Leaves, Nelum Ala
    • Fruits: Diwul
    • Seeds: Thala
  • Iron

    Iron deficiencies can lead to Anaemia. Anaemia, in turn, leads to lethargy, or worse, it can hinder a child’s physical and mental development.

    Meats, liver, fish, eggs, dark green vegetables, leaves, legumes are foods rich in Iron.

    Did you know, vitamin C can help your child’s body to better absorb iron content from vegetables. So give your child a sour fruit after their meals.

  • Vitamins

    Most of the food we mentioned above can help your child’s body fulfill its vitamin needs. So make sure to give your child a well-balanced meal consisting of meat/eggs/fish, legumes, vegetables, milk products or Thala.

Things to consider when preparing food for your child

  • Coconut oil not only boosts the taste, but it also adds proteins.
  • Cashew nuts, peanuts, ‘kottan’ seeds, pumpkin seeds, Thala are great sources of fats.
  • Colourful vegetables and fruits in a diet can provide a range of vitamins and minerals to help boost your child’s immune system and appetite.
  • Pay attention to your child’s growth rate and adjust your feeding to match it.
  • Children love diversity, bright colours, pleasant aromas and varying flavours.
  • Presenting the food in an attractive way can result in you winning half the battle.

This is a letter compiled by Mrs. Irangani Gagalagamuwa, Family Health Officer of the Bulathsinhala MOH Office.

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