What’s missing in the Preschooler diet?

  • The Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers (FITS) study identified toddlers’ nutritional needs at 2 through 4 years of age.
  • FITS identified the need for more fruits and vegetables, fiber, Potassium and Vitamin E, and less saturated fat and sodium.
  • Learn about common nutrition gaps and what you can serve to avoid those gaps.

To better understand Preschoolers’ eating habits and nutrient intake, Nestlé sponsored the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2008. By knowing what Preschoolers are really eating, we can better guide their food choices.

These are some common nutrition gaps we found for the Preschooler around 2 through 4 years of age:

Fruits and vegetables offer essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. A healthy diet which includes fruits and veggies is important for healthy growth and development.

Nestlé FITS found that getting enough vegetables is a concern. A third of Preschoolers age 2 and up are not consuming a serving of vegetables on a given day.

How to get it:
Feed your Preschooler one cup of fruit and one cup of vegetables every day. Fruit and vegetable servings can be from fresh, frozen or canned foods, chopped to the right texture. Remember you can still serve purees to a Preschooler—use favorite foods to add variety. For example, stir ¼ cup GERBER® 3RD FOODS® fruit purees into plain yogurt (or add milk for a smoothie).

Cereals. About 60% of Toddlers between ages 12 and 18 months are eating adult, non-whole grain cereals during the day. But eating adult cereals may not be best for your Preschooler ages 2 to 4 years. These cereals may not be as rich in Iron as infant cereal and may be high in sugar. 

How to bridge the gap:
Continue to give Iron-rich infant cereal and remember she can be fed cereal at any time of day! Two servings of infant cereal or ½ cup has 90% of her daily value for Iron.

Sweetened beverages and desserts. There’s not a lot of room in your Preschooler's diet for foods that offer calories but not many nutrients. More than 70% of Preschoolers consumed a dessert, sweet and sweetened beverage on a given day. Desserts, sweets and sweetened beverages can be high in calories compared to the micronutrients they provide and can displace other nutritious foods in the diet.

How to bridge the gap:
In place of sweets, serve your Preschooler more nutritious options such as fruits, yogurt, cereals and fortified snacks that are made with whole grains.

Fiber plays an important role in your child’s digestive health. But on a given day, virtually no Preschoolers are meeting the recommended daily intake of 19 grams of fiber.

How to bridge the gap:
Offer whole grains, and fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables each day. Try creating smoothies by blending whole fruits with skins and peels with yogurt.

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps protect the cells in the body from damage. More than half of Toddlers (age one year) are not getting the recommended amount of Vitamin E from the foods they eat.

How to bridge the gap:
Foods that have Vitamin E include vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean), avocados, whole grains, some leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli) and fortified products like GERBER® GRADUATES® Lil’ Crunchies—Apple & Sweet Potato flavor help maintain adequate intakes of Vitamin E.

Potassium is a mineral that helps muscles work properly, but virtually no Preschoolers are meeting the recommended intake of Potassium in their diet.

How to bridge the gap:
Potassium is found in many foods, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, yogurt, bananas and citrus fruits.

Healthy fats aid in growth and brain development. Fat also helps the body use vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Nestlé FITS showed that a third of Preschoolers ages 2 to 4 years are consuming less than the recommended amount of total fat in their diet, yet 75% are consuming too much saturated fat. A Preschooler's diet should include about 30 to 40% of total calories from fat, preferably mono- and polyunsaturated fats like those found in fish, avocados and foods made with vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oil. These healthy fats are better for her than the fat found in hot dogs, bacon and sausages.

How to bridge the gap:
Try preparing foods with canola oil, that also has the Omega-3 fat, or offer condiments such as mayonnaise or salad dressings made with these oils. Remember to limit foods high in saturated and trans fats. You can also serve GERBER® GRADUATES® Lil’ Sticks® meat and poultry sticks that have 70 mg Omega-3 essential fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) per serving.

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