Three years is generally the age when Indian children start going to school and involve themselves in a host of mental and physical activities. Hence balanced diet and proper nutrition become the foremost priority and planning a three-year-olds meal is of supreme importance. Mommies have to ensure that meals are tasty, nutritious and in accordance with toddler’s dietary requirements. A few points to be noted with regard to planning a three-year-olds meal plan have been discussed below.
Frequent small meals
Meal plan for a three-year-old child should consist of major meals as well as small snack and tiffin breaks. Growing children may be attending school and extracurricular activities; hence it should be ensured that they carry sufficient snacks with them so that they keep eating at regular intervals.
Meeting dietary needs
Guidelines by U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommend intake of 45-65% carbohydrates, 5-20% proteins and 30-40% fat as an ideal while designing a meal plan for a three year old kid. Plant-derived food items like vegetables, fruits and whole grains should be the foundation of each and every meal. Moderate amounts of low fat dairy products and lean protein foods may be added in moderation.Foods which are rich in sugar, calories, fat and sodium should be avoided in food being offered to toddlers. While eliminating these items may not be possible completely, their use should be minimized for ensuring healthy meals.
Inclusion of varieties
Varieties of flavours, textures and ingredients should be used to make meals more appealing and interesting for children. This would also help in getting toddlers used to consuming different types of food items.
Allergies to be given special consideration
Allergies should be given importance. By the age of three most of the food types have been tried and tested by children and their parents are well acquainted with the food types and varieties which may have allergic reactions. It is best to avoid those food types while planning a diet regime. Dairy products, nuts, eggs are food types to which a lot of children are allergic.
Three-year-olds love independence
Three year old love doing their work themselves. They are still learning to be independent and parents should encourage this. It is best to allow children to consume one or more meals by themselves. This can be best done by preparing roti, dosa or chila rolls so that children may find it easy to eat. They should also be permitted to eat fruits by themselves offering it to them sliced into thin small pieces. Table manners should be introduced at this age and the training process should be initiated.
All food types should be included in a weekly schedule of a growing baby.
1. Milk and milk products: Milk should ideally be served at least two times a day. At three years old, the child should consume at least half litre of milk or milk products in a day. This could include cottage cheese, processed cheese, porridge, curd, butter milk or any in any other form.
2. Non-vegetarian food: Non-vegetarian food comprising of chicken, fish or eggs may be served for any one of the meals for the day. It should preferably be served properly cooked. Raw eggs or sea food should be avoided at this age.
3. Regular meals: A meal comprising of chapattis, rice, pulses and vegetables should be offered for dinner. This can be made more interesting by serving different pulses, varying types and shapes of chapattis and cooking assorted vegetables together.
4. Breakfast and snacks: Healthy snack options like besan cheela, poha, suji upma, ragi dosa or aloo parantha may be offered for breakfast or snacks.
5. Fresh fruits: Fruits may be altered and offered as mid-day snacks. All varieties of food may be served on an alternate basis to this age group. This could include apples, bananas, watermelon, oranges and grapes. It is best to offer fresh seasonal fruits. Juices also serve as healthy options.
6. Junk food should be strictly avoided- Deep fried foods, chips, pizza, street food should be avoided as far as possible. These are neither hygienic nor nutritious; hence minimum consumption of junk food is suggested for growing toddlers.