Interesting and Nutritious Food for Pre-School Children
Healthy Living

Interesting and Nutritious Food for Pre-School Children

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 14 Jul 2014 - 14:22.


As a parent, meeting nutritional needs of your child is always a major concern. The eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle as they grow into adults. Hence it's important to inculcate good habits and a healthy relationship with food, right from an early age. Good nutrition at this stage of life (2- 6 years) is paramount, as it determines the child's healthy growth, both mentally and physically. 

There is an increased need for adequate nutrients during this phase of growth, but the pattern of increase varies for different nutrients in relation to its role in  the growth of the specific tissues in the growing child. Let's see some important nutritional requirements:

Most essential nutritional requirements for pre-schoolers:

Energy: As children grow beyond preschool age, they become increasingly mobile, so the energy requirements increase proportionately. Insufficient food will not only result in under-nourishment leading to inadequate weight, but will also hinder growth. Hence it’s advisable to give them energy dense foods like chikki (made from peanuts/cashewnuts and jaggary), dry /fresh fruit milkshake, eggs, smoothies etc.

Protein: The increase in muscle mass that must accompany bone growth requires positive nitrogen balance that is met by protein intakes of 1.5 to 2 g/kg body weight. Protein in the form of milk and milk products, eggs, pulses, soy products, dry fruits, seafood, lean meat and poultry can be included in the diet.

Fat: Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggests 25g of visible fat per day to provide sufficient energy density and to improve palatability of the diet. Fat in the diet can be given in the form of nuts and seeds like walnut and almond, dairy products, oily fish, olive oil, etc.

Calcium: Calcium requirements are assessed based on the calcium deposition in the body during the period of growth. Around 600mg of calcium per day is recommended. Calcium, needed for strong bones and teeth is primarily found in milk and milk products and to a lesser extent in green leafy vegetables.

Iron: Iron is necessary for proper growth of the child as it is necessary for maintaining muscle and blood level of the pre-schooler. Iron can be obtained from giving iron rich foods like rice flakes, egg yolk, poultry, green leafy vegetables and iron fortified cereals.

Recommended Dietary Allowances for Pre-school Children (ICMR)


1-3 years

4-6 years




Protein (g)



Fat (g)



Calcium (mg)



Iron (mg)



Vitamin A



  Retinol (µg)



  Beta Carotne (µg)



Thiamine (mg)



Riboflavin (mg)



Niacin (mg)



Vitamin C (mg)



Folic acid (µg)



Factors responsible for disliking food by children (preschool) are:
  • Sickness or ill health.
  • Worm infestation, particularly hook worm.
  • Nutritional deficiency.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insufficient time for eating.
  • Psychologically disturbed.
  • Repetitive food, no variety.
  • Food, not to the liking of the child.
  • Unpalatable food.
  • Food too hot or too cold.
  • Snacking just before a meal.
  • Distracted with playing.
  • Unfavourable comment on food.

Some dietary guidelines to develop healthy eating habits:

  • Regular family meals is a chance for parents to introduce kids  to new foods.
  • Cook more meals at home.
  • Get kids involved - Involving child in shopping and preparation considering child’s food preferences will give an opportunity to teach the child about nutrition.
  • Make a variety of healthy snacks available. Stocking fruits, vegetables, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) helps kids to access snacks instead of empty calorie snacks like aerated waters (sodas, colas) or junk food.
  • Become a role model - If you enjoy eating healthy food items, your children will follow suit.
  • Food should be slightly seasoned.
  • Do not force the child to eat more than he can.
  • Food preferences of the child should be taken into consideration.
  • Foods like tea and coffee should be restricted.
  • Encourage the child to eat slowly.
  • Do not use food for punishing or rewarding children- Withholding a particular food as a punishment may lead children to worry.
  • Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching television.
  • Eat new food yourself (mother), children love to imitate.
  • Offer healthy snacks between meals.
  • Encourage drinking water as against sweet sugary drinks.
  • Serve new foods with favourite foods to increase acceptance.
  • Include a variety of colours and textures and presentation style to create interest and choice.
  • Milk can be flavoured with fruits or made into a smoothie or custard.
  • Maintaining regular eating time.

Innovative food recipes:

Carrot/Beetroot Dosa - Sprinkle grated carrot/beetroot on the dosa made into shapes of different animals and cook as usual.

Rice/Dosa with variety of vegetable puree- Usually kids are fussy with vegetables. To make them eat, vegetables can pureed and served with garnishing, to add color, taste and texture. Dosa can be made into different shapes.

Sandwiches - Cut the sandwiches in different shapes (eg. like a fish)to make them more attractive and appealing.

Food pyramid for children:





*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.