Nutritious Food Plan for Your Preschooler

Preschooler (24+ months)
By Gerber

Pre-K Food Plan

This Preschooler food guide shows proper food group serving sizes that can help meet their nutritional goals.

 

Food Group

Amount per day

Serving Size and Food  examples

Milk

16 fl oz

½-1 cup low- fat milk or low-fat plain yogurt

½ slice of hard cheese

Vegetables

1 cup

½ cup soft cooked, peeled diced or cut vegetables like broccoli, carrots, sweet potato

Fruits

1 cup

½ cup soft peeled, diced or cut fruit like banana, kiwi, peaches

Meat/Beans

2 ounces

1-2 tablespoons easy-to-chew cooked, diced or cut meat, poultry or fish

1 scrambled egg

1/4 cup refried beans

Grains (choose whole grains whenever you can)

3 ounce equivalent

½ cup cooked pasta

1 slice whole grain bread

½ cup whole grain brown rice

Fats/Oils

1-2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon dressing (such as ranch), mayonnaise, cooking oil or soft margarine

*Your child’s needs may be greater or less than these stated; always follow your child’s hunger and fullness cues.


A nutritious diet for your Preschooler

Even if chicken nuggets and French fries are your child's favorite foods, they can still learn to love more nutritious options: fruits and vegetables, lean meats and poultry, fish, and more.


Add a little fish

Fish is a source of high-quality protein, and some even have healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Among the best choices (a.k.a. lower in mercury) as recommended by the FDA are salmon, pollock, cod and shrimp. It's recommended that children eat 1-2 servings of fish a week starting at age 2. However, it's important to be sure to avoid options high in mercury such as swordfish and king mackerel. See the FDA's full recommendation here. Have more questions? Message Dotti to chat with one of our Registered Dietitians.


Get colorful

Nutritious foods for your Preschooler should include a daily diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially nutrient-rich, dark-green, leafy vegetables, deep-yellow vegetables, and colorful fruits. Serving your child vegetables in a rainbow of colors will provide her with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Here are a few examples of colorful vegetables to try:

  • White: soft-cooked white potatoes or cooked cauliflower
  • Yellow: soft-cooked summer squash or cooked corn
  • Orange: mashed sweet potatoes or soft-cooked carrots
  • Red: diced fresh tomatoes or diced, cooked red sweet peppers
  • Green: soft-cooked green beans, peas or finely chopped romaine lettuce
  • Purple: soft-cooked purple cabbage or eggplant


Don't go overboard on beverages

Milk is an excellent source of bone-building Calcium for your child, but giving your child more milk than is recommended may leave them less hungry for other nutritious foods. Limit your Preschooler to 2 cups of low-fat (1%) or fat free (skim) milk per day. In addition to milk, 100% fruit juice and water are also good beverage choices for your child. But, as with milk, don't let your child fill up on juice. Preschoolers shouldn't have more than 4 to 6 fl. oz. (about ½ to ¾ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day.


Add variety to dairy and non-dairy Calcium sources

If your child doesn't like milk, make sure their diet includes other sources of Calcium, like yogurt or cheese. If they are sensitive to lactose, there are lots of non-dairy Calcium sources available for Preschooler nutrition such as: tofu, white beans, broccoli, collard greens, and canned baked beans. Many foods also have Calcium added, including: orange juice, breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, breads, and soy-milk.


Keep nutritious foods on hand

Replace the sugary sweets and salty chips in your cupboard with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains snacks like crackers, dried fruit snacks, yogurt and canned or fresh fruit. These options are better for every day, but you can keep a few cookies around for an occasional treat.


Go for key nutrients

According to the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, 10% of Preschoolers don’t get the recommended amounts of vitamin D, fiber, potassium, vitamin E and the "good" fats. Try providing these foods to make sure they're getting enough:

  • Vitamin E: avocados and foods made with canola, corn, or soybean oils, like salad dressings
  • Fiber: fruits, vegetables, beans, brown rice, and other whole grains
  • Potassium: bananas, orange juice, and cooked potatoes
  • Vitamin D: milk, yogurt and dairy fortified with vitamin D, vitamin D fortified cereal, orange juice with vitamin D and healthy amounts of sunshine! (More than 75% of 1-3 year olds do not get recommended amounts of vitamin D.)