With his many daytime activities and growing imagination, your 3-year-old is busy around the clock, making good nutrition more important than ever.
- Scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs -- great source of iron and protein. Make mini-omelets and cut them into bite sized pieces.
- String cheese sticks, cheese slices and cubes -- these are a clever way of getting your tot to eat his calcium and protein.
- Mini pizzas -- Use half of an English muffin or bagel, spread with tomato sauce, top with cheese, and put it in the oven to melt. Cool and serve.
- Fish sticks -- a dinner favorite and good source of calcium. Combine with yummy mashed potatoes for carbohydrates, and you've got a meal!
- Unsalted bread sticks, unsalted rice cakes, toast -- any grain product is a good source of B vitamins, and toddlers generally go for their relative blandness. Try spreading half a bagel with a bit of cream cheese for a healthy combination that's high in protein and carbohydrates.
- Apple slices, peach slices, plums, orange slices -- you can't go wrong with fresh fruit.
- Dried fruit -- cut into bits. Make sure you remove the pits from any prunes or dates you use. Toddlers will love picking minced dried fruit out of their favorite cup.
- Fruit smoothies are hits at this age. Add a straw, and you've got a soda fountain special.
- "Little trees" -- steamed pieces of broccoli and cauliflower. If introduced early, these vegetables can become favorite snacks.
- Tuna fish and salmon -- mix either with yogurt to make it spreadable and create delicious, nutritious sandwiches.
- Breads -- bran muffins, corn bread, and banana bread, made with honey and whole grain, are healthier than the store-bought kind. Make a batch, freeze, and defrost for a special but quick snack.
- Cookies -- choose fig-filled or oatmeal varieties rather than the other sugar types. Now that your child is a pre-schooler, here are some general guidelines for feeding him:
- Choose snacks that are high in complex carbohydrates, such as bread, breadsticks, bagels, muffins, crackers, and pasta salads. To make them even more nutritious, add a little protein and fat, such as cream cheese or smooth peanut butter.
- Any snack that your child can help make is much more likely to be consumed. Put him to work!
- Avoid the many snacks marketed to kids that are high in salt, fat, and sugar. Carefully read labels on food products, even those made especially for small children. Try to get a sense of how much salt or fat your child consumes in a day. A quarter of his recommended daily intake of salt, for example, is too much for one snack.
- At 3, your child needs fewer fats and fatty acids than he did before. Ask your health care provider if he is ready to start drinking low-fat milk. Remember, however, that skim milk is too low in fat for small children.
- Dairy products are important, but don't overdo it. Your child needs 16 to 24 ounces of milk (or dairy products such as yogurt or cheese) per day for strong bones and growth. But more than 24 ounces could cause your child to lose his appetite for other foods containing important nutrients milk doesn't have. Breakfast cereal is likely to become a staple. It's a good choice for a meal or a snack as long as you choose a cereal without too much added sugar.