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Your Three Year Old - What You Need To Know

Ages and Stages

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Updated July 16, 2014

Young boy eating dinner in kitchen
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Preschool Nutrition

You should now be giving your child 2%, low fat, or skim milk, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending switching to low-fat milk at age two years. So you should likely make the switch to low-fat milk if you haven't already.

Your child's diet should now resemble that of the rest of the families, with 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. You should limit milk and dairy products to about 16 to 24oz each day, and juice to 4 to 6oz each day, and offer a variety of foods to encourage good eating habits later.

To prevent feeding problems, teach your child to feed himself as early as possible, provide him with healthy choices and allow experimentation. Mealtimes should be enjoyable and pleasant and not a source of struggle. Common mistakes are allowing your child to drink too much milk or juice so that he isn't hungry for solids, forcing your child to eat when he isn't hungry, or forcing him to eat foods that he doesn't want.

Your child may now start to refuse to eat some foods, become a very picky eater or even go on binges where he will only want to eat a certain food. An important way that children learn to be independent is through establishing independence about feeding. Even though your child may not be eating as well rounded a diet as you would like, as long as your child is growing normally and has a normal energy level, there is probably little to worry about. Remember that this is a period in his development where he is not growing very fast and doesn't need a lot of calories. Also, most children do not eat a balanced diet each and every day, but over the course of a week or so, their diet will usually be well balanced. You can consider giving your child a daily vitamin if you think he is not eating well, although most children don't need them.

While you should provide three well-balanced meals each day, it is important to keep in mind that some children will only eat one or two full meals each day. If you child has had a good breakfast and lunch, then it is okay that he doesn't want to eat much at dinner.

Other ways to prevent feeding problems are to not use food as a bribe or reward for desired behaviors, avoid punishing your child for not eating well, limit mealtime conversation to positive and pleasant topics, avoid discussing or commenting on your child's poor eating habits while at the table, limit eating and drinking to the table or high chair, and limit snacks to two nutritious snacks each day.

To avoid having to supplement with fluoride, use fluoridated tap water. If you are using bottled or filtered water only, then your child may need fluoride supplements (check with the manufacturer for your water's fluoride levels).

Feeding practices to avoid are continuing to use a bottle or sippy cup, giving large amounts of sweet deserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sugarcoated cereals, chips or candy, as they have little nutritional value. Also avoid giving foods that your child can choke on, such as raw carrots, peanuts, whole grapes, tough meats, popcorn, chewing gum or hard candy.

For more information on your preschooler's nutrition:

Related Video
How Much Juice and Milk is Too Much?
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  2. Health
  3. Pediatrics
  4. Ages and Stages
  5. Preschool Age Children
  6. Caring for Your Three Year Old: Nutrition (Pediatrics)

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