Dietitian's Food Series: What Should My Three-Year-Old Be Eating?
Once a toddler reaches the age of three, they will have developed food likes and dislikes. Their appetite will differ depending on how active they have been, how many calories they have been eating at different times and their stage of growth. For this reason, there is no need to be worried if your three-year-old eats a lot of food some days and very little on others. As long as they are getting a wide range of different foods over the course of a week they will be getting the nutrients they need.
At this time of day, a three-year-old will be eating a small adult-sized breakfast. This could be a bowl of cereal or a slice or two of toast. Adding a protein-rich food -- think Greek yoghurt, an egg or baked beans -- will help to make breakfast more filling. Plus, the fibre found in wholemeal bread or wholegrain cereal will help to prevent constipation. A good habit is to try offering water at mealtimes, so children do not get into the habit of looking for juice or milk with every meal. Some of my favourite breakfast recipe options for three-year-olds include:
- Blueberry and Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins
Toddlers at this age will wake early -- meaning by 9am or 10am they will often be hungry for a substantial snack. This is a good time to offer a slice of toast, some cheese and crackers, or yoghurt and fruit as a sit-down meal. Choosing nutrient-rich options will help to avoid quick and processed snacks, such as rice crackers, sweet biscuits and muffins, which offer little nutritional value and will not keep toddlers full for extended periods of time.
Lunch at home might mean a sit-down meal with your toddler or a hot meal at day care. I find the midday meal is a perfect time to offer fussy toddlers protein and vegetables. Think tinned fish, leftover pasta, vegetable patties or even a cut-up salad plate with cheese, bread and meat. Some of my favourite lunch recipe options for three-year-olds include:
- Quinoa Patties
If your toddler has enjoyed a hearty lunch, they may only need a light snack to refuel them at 2pm or 3pm. Good options include nut spread on crackers, mini homemade muffins or avocado dip with cut up vegetables.
Ideally, by the time children reach three-years-of-age they will be enjoying a small serve of the family meal at dinner time. However, don’t worry if they don’t eat a lot at dinner if they have had a good lunch -- a few mouthfuls of the family meal will be fine. It is also OK to include a small glass of milk with the evening meal, as children aged three to five years can still consume up to 500ml milk each day. Some of my favourite dinner recipe options for three-year-olds include:
Before BedIf you regularly offer your children dessert, good options after dinner include a small serve of plain yoghurt with fruit, a small glass of warm milk or occasionally a small serve of plain ice-cream or frozen yoghurt on a stick.