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DO you have a pre-schooler? If yes, is your pre-schooler getting enough energy and nutrients to not only get through the entire day, but also to support his growth and development?

This may be tricky to answer, especially when both parents in most families nowadays are working full-time. They may not be able to fully monitor their child to ensure that he is taking proper nutrition.

Pre-schoolers represent an additional challenge as they also need to start attuning themselves in preparation for school.

In terms of meal times, you will need to start attuning him to a typical scenario, i.e. three main meals a day with healthy snacks between meals (as three main meals are not enough for him).

Daily nutritional needs

Start his day right by making sure your pre-schooler eats breakfast on a daily basis.

Some breakfast ideas include breakfast cereals with milk (with bananas), steamed pau with soya milk, or chapati with chocolate malt beverage.

Do prepare something light too, to serve as snacks between the next two main meals (i.e. lunch and dinner).

Lunch and dinner should also provide your child with energy and nutrients.

Examples of all-in-one dishes you can prepare easily are rice or noodles in soup (with chicken/lean meats and green leafy vegetables), sandwiches (with grilled chicken/meat/tuna and veggie as fillings), pasta and chicken/meat pies.

As just having three main meals a day is not sufficient for a healthy and growing child, he will also need light snacks between meals.

Give him healthy snacks to keep his energy up throughout the day and to fill in the nutrition gaps. However, do not give snacks too close to the main mealtimes as this will spoil his appetite.

The healthy choices for snacks that you can pack for pre-school/daycare include: packet milk, yoghurt, egg/cheese sandwiches, corn-in-cup, cucumber/carrot/celery sticks, fresh/dried fruits (bananas, apples, guava, papaya, honey dew, raisins, dates, etc.), oat biscuits, cheese crackers, beverages made from 100% fruit juice and soybean milk.

To help you get started, here’s a sample menu:

Breakfast: Cereal + milk + banana (Monday); Oat porridge + milk + apple (Tuesday)

Mid-morning snack: Egg sandwich (Monday); Appam manis + orange (Tuesday)

Lunch: Mee hoon soup + chicken + veggie (Monday); Rice + lean meat + mixed veggies (Tuesday)

Afternoon snack: Guava + crackers + yoghurt (Monday); Toast bread + scrambled egg + cheese (Tuesday)

Dinner: Rice + steamed fish + bayam soup (Monday); Chicken rice + tomatoes + cucumber (Tuesday)

The important thing to remember here is to focus on giving him a balanced meal that consists of a variety of foods in moderate portions.

Principles of BMV

The principles of balance, moderation, and variety (BMV) are critical for a healthy lifestyle.

BMV means that one’s daily diet should be balanced by including foods from all five food groups in the Malaysian Food Pyramid (Balance), in moderate portions in accordance with the recommended number of servings per food group (Moderation), and consists of a variety of foods in each food group to meet all one’s nutritional needs (Variety).

Milk is one of the most nutritionally complete foods needed for growing children.

Therefore, milk can be a quick fix for pre-schoolers, especially if he has an imbalanced diet (due to picky eating or has not been provided with nutritionally adequate meals).

Milk contains protein, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and potassium, which are bone-building nutrients.

An intake of two to three cups a day is recommended to help minimise any gaps in nutrient intake that your child may face when sent to pre-school and/or daycare.

Go for healthy choices

Proper nutrition is needed during his growing years, so extra care should be given to provide him with sufficient “fuel” and essential nutrients for his growth and development.

While healthy choices should be given with greater emphasis, this does not mean that your child should be completely barred from the occasional less healthy foods that are sweet/savoury or deep-fried, or even sugary drinks. This includes Malaysian favourites such as kuih-muih, cendol, ABC, currypuff, pisang goreng, sausages, nuggets, air sirap, soft drinks, flavoured fruit drinks, etc.

Just remember not to let him over-indulge.

Dr Roseline Yap is a nutritionist and council member of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my or visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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