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Expert advice about your child’s health.

3-5 Year Old

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Diet for 3-5 year old

By now your child should be eating and enjoying healthy meals and meal times with the rest of the family. Children do not need special foods. Offer the same meals as the rest of the family as much as possible.

If you need to, just modify the texture of the food you are eating (e.g. cut up meats and serve small pasta pieces that are easy for your child to pick up).

This is a critical stage for laying the foundations for healthy eating. It is an important time for parents to encourage, support and model healthy eating.

Parents often become concerned that their child is not eating enough and frustrated that everything they prepare is refused. As a parent you are responsible for what your child is offered to eat, when the food is offered (a 3-5 year old may need 5-6 small meals a day) and making meal times pleasant. Your child is responsible for how much, or even whether, they eat.

How much food is eaten at this age varies from child to child and from day to day and is influenced by growth and activity levels. A guide for the recommended diet and serving amount at this age is as follows:

Breads, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles
3 to 7 servings daily

(one serve = 2 slices of bread, or 1 cup cereal, or 1 cup cooked
rice, pasta, noodles).

This includes all kinds of wholemeal, wholegrain and white bread, cereal, rice, pasta, and noodles.

Vegetables and legumes
2 servings daily

(one serve = 1/2 cup cooked, or 1 cup salad).

Encourage your child to taste and try a wide variety of both raw and cooked vegetables. This is important in helping your child develop healthy eating habits. Fresh vegetables are best, but frozen and canned are good alternatives. Your child may like the same vegetable in one form (for example,raw grated carrot) but not another (such as cooked diced carrot).

1 serving daily

(one serve = one medium piece)
Fresh fruit is best but frozen, canned and dried are also good alternatives. Fruit juice is not an alternative to fresh fruit.

Milk, yogurt and cheese
2 servings daily
(one serve = two cups or 250ml of milk, custard or 200g tub
yoghurt or 40g cheese or cheese slice).

Children do not need special yogurts or custards. Reduced fat dairy foods are suitable for this age group.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and legumes
2 servings daily
(1/2 serving = 1/2 cup mince or 35-50g meat or 2 tablespoons kidney beans or other legume, or 40-60g fish, or 1 egg, or 1 tablespoon peanut paste).

Red meat is an excellent source of iron. Try to include it often. Nuts are not recommended for young children as they could cause choking. Use only smooth nut pastes.