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How to Raise
a Healthy Preschooler
Ages 2 to 5
Want More Information?
Contact a Registered Dietitian at your local public health unit
or community health centre for:
What is healthy eating for children?
Further advice on eating problems, supplements, children and diets (e.g. vegetarian).
Other handouts on growth, healthy eating, meal and snack ideas, picky eaters,
food budgeting, reading food labels and more.
Contact information for nutrition related support groups and agencies in your community.
Parent education workshops.
This resource was originally part of the NutriSTEP (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler) Project.
• All foods can be part of healthy eating. But some foods are
healthier than others. Following Canada’s Food Guide to
Healthy Eating is a good way to eat healthy.
• Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating includes foods from the
four food groups - Grain Products; Vegetables and Fruit; Milk and
Foods High in Calcium; Meat, Fish and Foods High in Protein.
• Children are likely to get the nutrients they need to grow and
stay healthy when meals and snacks include a variety of foods
from at least three of the four food groups.
How are children’s needs different than adults?
The NutriSTEP Project thanks the following sponsors for their financial support: Population Health
Fund, Health Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Greater Sudbury.
The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official policies of Health Canada.
Permission for adaptation granted by Sudbury & District Health Unit.
Adaptation made possible with the help of South Riverdale Community Health Centre.
• Children have tiny tummies. So for good health they
need to eat more often than adults. That’s why it’s
important to offer snacks in between meals.
• Some days your child may only eat a few bites at each meal,
other days they may eat a lot. It is normal for preschoolers’
appetites to vary from day to day.
What are healthy drinks for my child?
• Offer water between meals and snacks.
Water is better for preschoolers’ teeth than
juice, and doesn’t fill them up.
When it’s hot or preschoolers are active,
offer them water often.
• Limit juice intake to no more than
4-6 oz (125-250 mL) a day. Too much juice
provides too much sugar and no fibre.
Encourage your child to eat fruits instead of juice
to get fibre.
• Milk (or fortified soy beverage) is important for growth
as well as healthy bones and teeth, but too much milk
can be filling and leave little room for other healthy foods.
How do I know my child is growing well?
• Plan three meals and two or three snacks about two to three hours
apart. That way children are hungry, but not too hungry, when
it is time to eat.
• Growth is affected by many things.
Each child is different. Children grow
and develop at different rates.
• Keep portion sizes small. As children grow, portion sizes can grow too.
• Talk to your child’s doctor to find
out if they are growing well.
• Keep a variety of healthy, ready to eat snacks available, such
as fresh fruit, cut up vegetables, yogurt, crackers, cereal and milk.
• Children need nutritious, higher fat foods like peanut butter
and cheese to meet their energy needs.
• Sometimes children will only eat a few kinds of foods.
Be patient. Keep offering healthy foods.
Why is being active important?
• Playing actively indoors and outdoors should be fun
and a regular part of every day. Children need
to be physically active to grow up healthy.
• Vitamin supplements are usually not needed, even for picky eaters.
Adapted by:
Distributed by:
How do I get my child to eat well?
• Eating together should be enjoyable and fun for you and your family.
• Help children by setting a good example. Eat with them at the table. Eat well yourself by choosing a variety of foods.
• Offer small quantities of new foods alongside a familiar one. Don't pressure your child to eat the new food. If an unfamiliar food
is not accepted the first time, offer it again another day. The more children are exposed to new foods, the more likely they will taste
them and learn to accept them. You may have to offer the food ten or more times before your child will eat it
• Children are born with the ability to know when they are hungry and when they are full. So when your child says they are full,
avoid encouraging them to eat more. This helps them understand their hunger signs making them less likely to over eat or eat too
little in the future.
• Your children will grow best if you do not pressure, bribe or reward them to eat more or eat certain foods. The more a parent pushes
food, the less likely a child is to eat them.
September 2006
• Enjoy meals without watching TV or other distractions such as toys. This allows everyone to focus on food, and helps children know
when they’re full so they don’t over eat.
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers
Child Size Amounts
Child Size Servings
1/4 cup = 50 ml or 4 Tablespoons
1/3 cup = 75 ml or 5 1/2 Tablespoons
1/2 cup = 125 ml or 8 Tablespoons
2/3 cup = 150 ml or 10 1/2 Tablespoons
3/4 cup = 175 ml or 12 Tablespoons
1 cup = 250 ml or 16 Tablespoons
1 oz = 1 slice of cheese or lunchmeat or
is about the size of 4 dice
GRAIN PRODUCTS
VEGETABLES & FRUIT
MILK AND FOODS
HIGH IN CALCIUM
MEAT, FISH AND FOODS
HIGH IN PROTEIN
Examples:1/2-1 slice bread, 1/3-3/4 cup hot or
cold cereal, 1/4-1/2 cup pasta or rice or noodles,
1/4-1/2 bagel, pita or bun, 1/4-1/2 roti or tortilla,
1/2-1 small muffin, 1/3-3/4 bowl of congee
Examples:1/2-1 medium size vegetable or
fruit, 1/4-1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned
vegetables or fruit, 1/4-1/2 cup juice
Examples:1/2-1 cup milk as a beverage
or in puddings and soup, 1-2 oz cheese,
1/3-3/4 cup yogurt
Examples:1-2 oz meat, fish or poultry,
1 egg, 1/4-1/2 cup tofu or legumes
(peas, beans, lentils), 1-2 Tbsp. peanut butter
A typical day could be:
Other Foods
Grain Products
Vegetables &
Fruit
Milk and Foods
High in Calcium
Meat, Fish and
Foods High in
Protein
5-12 servings
per day
5-10 servings
per day
2-3 servings
per day
2-3 servings
per day
Choose whole
grain and
enriched
products more
often.
Choose dark
green and
orange
vegetables
and fruit.
Preschoolers
should drink
500 ml (2 cups)
of milk every day
because it is
their main
dietary source
of calcium and
vitamin D.
Choose leaner
meats, poultry
and fish, as well
as dried peas,
beans and lentils
more often.
Limit low-nutrient foods
that are high in salt,
fat, sugar and caffeine
such as chips, cheesies,
candy, chocolate and
pop. These foods are
OK as a treat once in
a while but if eaten
everyday, they may
replace important
nutrients and healthier
food choices.
Breakfast
A.M. Snack
Noon Meal
1 egg
1 slice toast
1/2 banana
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fruit juice
1 bun
1/2 cup steamed rice
50 g tofu
1/2 cup stir-fried vegetables
1 small pear
P.M. Snack
Supper
1/3 cup yogurt
1/2 apple-cut in slices
1/2 cup water*
1-2 oz (25-50 g) meat, fish, poultry, legumes
1/4-1/2 cup rice, pasta or grains
1/4-1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables
1/2 cup milk
1 small orange
After Supper Snack
4 whole wheat crackers
1/2 cup calcium-fortified soy milk
Avoid day-long nibbling on
food or sipping on beverages
as this can cause cavities.
*Offer water to drink between meals, when preschoolers are active, and when the weather is hot.
Enjoy your child’s discoveries and try not to worry about what they eat. If their meals and snacks are fairly well balanced
with foods from the four food groups and they seem to be healthy, happy and growing well, there is likely no concern.
With patience, understanding and all these healthy building blocks, your child will be ready for the school age stage and
on the road to lifelong healthy habits.
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers
Child Size Amounts
Child Size Servings
1/4 cup = 50 ml or 4 Tablespoons
1/3 cup = 75 ml or 5 1/2 Tablespoons
1/2 cup = 125 ml or 8 Tablespoons
2/3 cup = 150 ml or 10 1/2 Tablespoons
3/4 cup = 175 ml or 12 Tablespoons
1 cup = 250 ml or 16 Tablespoons
1 oz = 1 slice of cheese or lunchmeat or
is about the size of 4 dice
GRAIN PRODUCTS
VEGETABLES & FRUIT
MILK AND FOODS
HIGH IN CALCIUM
MEAT, FISH AND FOODS
HIGH IN PROTEIN
Examples:1/2-1 slice bread, 1/3-3/4 cup hot or
cold cereal, 1/4-1/2 cup pasta or rice or noodles,
1/4-1/2 bagel, pita or bun, 1/4-1/2 roti or tortilla,
1/2-1 small muffin, 1/3-3/4 bowl of congee
Examples:1/2-1 medium size vegetable or
fruit, 1/4-1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned
vegetables or fruit, 1/4-1/2 cup juice
Examples:1/2-1 cup milk as a beverage
or in puddings and soup, 1-2 oz cheese,
1/3-3/4 cup yogurt
Examples:1-2 oz meat, fish or poultry,
1 egg, 1/4-1/2 cup tofu or legumes
(peas, beans, lentils), 1-2 Tbsp. peanut butter
A typical day could be:
Other Foods
Grain Products
Vegetables &
Fruit
Milk and Foods
High in Calcium
Meat, Fish and
Foods High in
Protein
5-12 servings
per day
5-10 servings
per day
2-3 servings
per day
2-3 servings
per day
Choose whole
grain and
enriched
products more
often.
Choose dark
green and
orange
vegetables
and fruit.
Preschoolers
should drink
500 ml (2 cups)
of milk every day
because it is
their main
dietary source
of calcium and
vitamin D.
Choose leaner
meats, poultry
and fish, as well
as dried peas,
beans and lentils
more often.
Limit low-nutrient foods
that are high in salt,
fat, sugar and caffeine
such as chips, cheesies,
candy, chocolate and
pop. These foods are
OK as a treat once in
a while but if eaten
everyday, they may
replace important
nutrients and healthier
food choices.
Breakfast
A.M. Snack
Noon Meal
1 egg
1 slice toast
1/2 banana
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fruit juice
1 bun
1/2 cup steamed rice
50 g tofu
1/2 cup stir-fried vegetables
1 small pear
P.M. Snack
Supper
1/3 cup yogurt
1/2 apple-cut in slices
1/2 cup water*
1-2 oz (25-50 g) meat, fish, poultry, legumes
1/4-1/2 cup rice, pasta or grains
1/4-1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables
1/2 cup milk
1 small orange
After Supper Snack
4 whole wheat crackers
1/2 cup calcium-fortified soy milk
Avoid day-long nibbling on
food or sipping on beverages
as this can cause cavities.
*Offer water to drink between meals, when preschoolers are active, and when the weather is hot.
Enjoy your child’s discoveries and try not to worry about what they eat. If their meals and snacks are fairly well balanced
with foods from the four food groups and they seem to be healthy, happy and growing well, there is likely no concern.
With patience, understanding and all these healthy building blocks, your child will be ready for the school age stage and
on the road to lifelong healthy habits.
How to Raise
a Healthy Preschooler
Ages 2 to 5
Want More Information?
Contact a Registered Dietitian at your local public health unit
or community health centre for:
What is healthy eating for children?
Further advice on eating problems, supplements, children and diets (e.g. vegetarian).
Other handouts on growth, healthy eating, meal and snack ideas, picky eaters,
food budgeting, reading food labels and more.
Contact information for nutrition related support groups and agencies in your community.
Parent education workshops.
This resource was originally part of the NutriSTEP (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler) Project.
• All foods can be part of healthy eating. But some foods are
healthier than others. Following Canada’s Food Guide to
Healthy Eating is a good way to eat healthy.
• Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating includes foods from the
four food groups - Grain Products; Vegetables and Fruit; Milk and
Foods High in Calcium; Meat, Fish and Foods High in Protein.
• Children are likely to get the nutrients they need to grow and
stay healthy when meals and snacks include a variety of foods
from at least three of the four food groups.
How are children’s needs different than adults?
The NutriSTEP Project thanks the following sponsors for their financial support: Population Health
Fund, Health Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Greater Sudbury.
The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official policies of Health Canada.
Permission for adaptation granted by Sudbury & District Health Unit.
Adaptation made possible with the help of South Riverdale Community Health Centre.
• Children have tiny tummies. So for good health they
need to eat more often than adults. That’s why it’s
important to offer snacks in between meals.
• Some days your child may only eat a few bites at each meal,
other days they may eat a lot. It is normal for preschoolers’
appetites to vary from day to day.
What are healthy drinks for my child?
• Offer water between meals and snacks.
Water is better for preschoolers’ teeth than
juice, and doesn’t fill them up.
When it’s hot or preschoolers are active,
offer them water often.
• Limit juice intake to no more than
4-6 oz (125-250 mL) a day. Too much juice
provides too much sugar and no fibre.
Encourage your child to eat fruits instead of juice
to get fibre.
• Milk (or fortified soy beverage) is important for growth
as well as healthy bones and teeth, but too much milk
can be filling and leave little room for other healthy foods.
How do I know my child is growing well?
• Plan three meals and two or three snacks about two to three hours
apart. That way children are hungry, but not too hungry, when
it is time to eat.
• Growth is affected by many things.
Each child is different. Children grow
and develop at different rates.
• Keep portion sizes small. As children grow, portion sizes can grow too.
• Talk to your child’s doctor to find
out if they are growing well.
• Keep a variety of healthy, ready to eat snacks available, such
as fresh fruit, cut up vegetables, yogurt, crackers, cereal and milk.
• Children need nutritious, higher fat foods like peanut butter
and cheese to meet their energy needs.
• Sometimes children will only eat a few kinds of foods.
Be patient. Keep offering healthy foods.
Why is being active important?
• Playing actively indoors and outdoors should be fun
and a regular part of every day. Children need
to be physically active to grow up healthy.
• Vitamin supplements are usually not needed, even for picky eaters.
Adapted by:
Distributed by:
How do I get my child to eat well?
• Eating together should be enjoyable and fun for you and your family.
• Help children by setting a good example. Eat with them at the table. Eat well yourself by choosing a variety of foods.
• Offer small quantities of new foods alongside a familiar one. Don't pressure your child to eat the new food. If an unfamiliar food
is not accepted the first time, offer it again another day. The more children are exposed to new foods, the more likely they will taste
them and learn to accept them. You may have to offer the food ten or more times before your child will eat it
• Children are born with the ability to know when they are hungry and when they are full. So when your child says they are full,
avoid encouraging them to eat more. This helps them understand their hunger signs making them less likely to over eat or eat too
little in the future.
• Your children will grow best if you do not pressure, bribe or reward them to eat more or eat certain foods. The more a parent pushes
food, the less likely a child is to eat them.
September 2006
• Enjoy meals without watching TV or other distractions such as toys. This allows everyone to focus on food, and helps children know
when they’re full so they don’t over eat.

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