Posted in:

Tips to keep your child’s diet on track

Nutritious snacks for preschoolers

Did you know? According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • In the last 20 years, the number of 2- to 5-year-olds consuming soft drinks has increased 21 percent.
  • Simple, more healthful substitutions can reduce a child’s risk of becoming overweight. For example, trading a banana for 1 ounce of potato chips will contribute 12 percent less fat, 10 percent more fiber and 13 percent more potassium.

Filling the Gaps

A child’s small tummy usually cannot hold enough at meals to keep him or her satisfied until the next meal. Kids younger than six may need to eat two to three snacks a day because they usually can’t meet their daily requirements in just three meals. Think of snacks as mini-meals to help fill the gaps in their diets. Keep track of what your child eats for a few days and compare that with the recommendations at You can print a sample plan based on age, gender and physical activity. Does your child’s diet have gaps? If you notice your child is lacking certain food groups, plan snacks that will help him or her meet his or her daily needs.
For a MyPlate plan for your child, visit and fill in age/gender and physical activity information, or contact your local Extension office.

Portion Sizes

Starting at about age two, children begin eating the same foods as the rest of the family. While they should be getting the same variety of foods, their portion sizes need to be smaller to suit their needs. Two-thirds of the adult portion is usually about right. For example, an appropriate vegetable portion for a preschooler would be between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup. With portions this size, small children need to eat more frequently to meet their daily calorie needs. Preschool-age children need around 1,300 calories per day. Children should be getting the majority of their calories from a variety of grains (preferably whole grains), vegetables, fruits, milk products and lean protein sources. If your child is a juice drinker, try to limit the amount to six ounces or less per day and encourage more whole fruit. Adding whole fruit is an easy way to incorporate more fiber into their diets.

Make Fruits and Veggies Fun

Often times, getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables is challenging. Try making snack time fun. For example, provide a variety of cut-up fruits or vegetables and let them create their own kabobs with your assistance. You also may want to try serving vegetables with low-fat dip to make them more appealing.

Beverages Count!

Liquid calories can add up quickly. One can of soda pop has up to 170 calories and no nutrients. Low-fat/fat-free milk and 100 percent juice provide nutrients along with calories. Replacing soda with healthier options, such as water, milk and juice, can help children get more of the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly.

Fun and Easy Recipes

Waffle Snack

1 frozen waffle
1 Tbsp. low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter
1 tsp. jam

1. Toast waffle in toaster.
2. Spread cream cheese or peanut butter on top.
3. Top with jam.

Makes one serving, with 140 calories, 5 g fat, 4 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 260 mg sodium.

Vegetable Dip

1 c. cottage cheese
1 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1-ounce package ranch-style dressing mix

1. Put ingredients in a blender.
2. Blend on medium speed for about 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth.
3. Serve with assorted vegetables.

Makes eight servings (¼ cup per serving). Each serving has 120 calories, 1 g fat, 5 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 500 mg sodium. Source: Penn State Cooperative Extension

Fruit Dip

2 c. low-fat sour cream
1-ounce package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
¼ c. fat-free milk
4 tsp. lemon juice

1. Whisk together all ingredients until well-blended.
2. Serve with assorted fruit.

Makes eight servings (¼ cup per serving). Each serving has 70 calories, 4 g fat, 4 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 180 mg sodium. Source: Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist

Sarah Rommesmo, Former Program Assistant
Find out more at

Call West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center at 701-456-0007 or toll free 1-877-264-1142 for more resources.