There is not a single day in our modern life that we go without eating food. 

Culture is heavily influenced by food too. And the environment children are brought up in influences their attitudes and behaviours. 

It is of critical importance that nutrition and healthy eating is part of a child’s development from the days they are born until their independence. 

In this article, we cover the various aspects of basic nutrition for preschoolers and how to plan their meals properly.

How much should my preschooler eat?

First of all, no child should be on a calorie-restricted diet, unless specified by their medical doctor. Let your child decide how much to eat from the foods you offer. On some days, they might eat more, some days they might eat less.

As children, their appetites change from day to day, according to their mood, hormones, and activity levels. Keep in mind that if your child engages in extra physical activity, more calories will be burned off, so don’t worry if they eat a lot more on that day.

In general, it’s not necessary to eat the exact total amount of calories, but having meals planned to cater to the changes in caloric needs will help a lot in their development and weight. 

Here’s a sample table of the caloric requirements for children.

Designing a Menu

First, think about the approach to meal planning – do you:

  • Want to rotate the meals on a weekly basis or create a monthly plan
  • Need to consider any special nutrition needs for children? (eg. Halal / vegetarian / non-dairy/ allergic reactions etc)
  • Need to consider certain foods that certain children do not like to eat
  • Prefer to prepare meals just before every meal, cook in bulk in the morning/night before (not recommended)

Stock Your Pantry and Freezer with the Basic Food Groups

To get started with meal planning, take time to stock up on the essentials. This includes healthier-choice food options that can be mixed in with meals that children enjoy (eg. Broccoli florets mixed in with mashed potatoes). 

Fats, Oils, Sugar and Salt

As much as this food group is commonly frowned upon, fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Sugar and salt help to improve the taste of our food too. Ideally, added fats, sugar and salt should still be kept to a minimum. 

Protein Foods

Proteins are one of the three basic macronutrients in the human body. 

Making things a little more complicated, protein requirements also depend on the quality of protein your child eats and how easily digestible it is. This means your child’s diet should include plenty of milk, eggs, and meats. Soy, hemp seeds, and quinoa also serve as a vegetarian alternative.

Talk to our experts and learn how you can get your childcare centre certified under the Healthy Meals in Childcare Centre Programme by Health Promotion Board Singapore.

Fruits and Vegetables

This needs no further explanation. We all know how important it is to get the necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber in our diet.  


Opt for complex carbohydrates for children. I know what you’re thinking…children won’t eat brown rice or wholegrain bread.

Here’s how to find healthier carbohydrate options:

The Nutrition Facts on food labels can help!

Total Carbohydrate: This number, listed in grams, combines several types of carbohydrates: dietary fibers, sugars, and other carbs.

Dietary Fiber: Listed under Total Carbohydrate, dietary fiber itself has minimal calories and a high-fiber diet has many health benefits, including improved bowel movement

Sugars: Also listed under Total Carbohydrate. As a rule of thumb, avoid products that have sugar or other sweeteners high on the ingredients list.

Check Out: The Official Healthier Choice Product List in Singapore

Summary of main nutritional points for children

  • Young children should eat three regular meals a day:
  1. Breakfast

Mid-morning snack (if there is rigorous physical activity) 

  1. Lunch

Afternoon snack (if required)

  1. Evening meal
  • Many children have smaller appetites. So they would benefit from one or two nutritious snacks between meals each day.
  • Include at least one portion of carbohydrates at each meal. (eg. bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods)
  • Younger children are at a phase of growth and need a variety of protein foods for optimal muscular, skeletal and horomonal development. (eg. meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of proteins)
  • Aim to provide at least two portions of calcium-rich foods each day (Eg. yoghurt, cheese, milk, peas, tofu and other similar food types)
  • It is important that children drink plenty of fluids each day (Eg. water, milk, juice and other liquids) to replace the water they have lost to prevent dehydration. Children are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults. 

*Specific dietary advice may be required for children with medical conditions, allergies or dietary limitations. Please consult with the child’s parents and check with a medical physician before setting your menu. 

Sample Menu

Bottom Line:

You are responsible for what food is offered to them – nutrition, quality, variety, flavour etc. 

Your child is responsible for how much they want to eat.

Continue to offer food without pressure. 

Continue to have meals and snacks at the same times of the day to inculcate a regular eating habit. 

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your assigned health care provider. Or talk to our professionals and we’d be more than willing to help you.

Nutritional Guidelines for Children and Menu Planning in Pre-schools

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