Preschoolers are highly active and require about 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day to keep them going throughout the day. These calories should be spread out in five or six "mini-meals" throughout the day. Of these meals, lunch should ideally contain a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats that will provide a sustained source of energy to carry them through the afternoon.
A Balanced Lunch
Balance is an important factor in all preschooler's meals, including lunch. For a child of this age, each meal should include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and protein sources. Dietician Sharon Collison points out that encouraging healthy foods is just as important as not banning foods you may thing are unhealthy. "All foods can fit," she says. "There are no good foods or bad foods."
Cooking With Preschoolers
Encourage your child to help you prepare lunch. Not only will this encourage him to eat the meal you've prepared together, it's a great opportunity to teach basic skills such as measuring, counting and following instructions. Even the pickiest eater will want to taste something he had a hand in preparing, so cooking with a preschooler is a great opportunity to introduce new foods to expand a child's culinary horizons and create an adventurous eater.
If your child goes to daycare or preschool and you pack a lunch, there are a variety of healthy ideas to ensure her lunch will be nutritious. For example, include a small container of homemade trail mix made from seeds, nuts and chopped oats that she can mix with some yogurt or fruit salad. Another idea with kid appeal is raisin-bread fingers, made with sliced spears of toasted raisin bread with cream cheese and raisins. Graham crackers topped with cream cheese and peanut butter is also a creative choice. The idea is to prevent your child from becoming bored with the same old lunches by providing varied and healthy menu choices.
Wrap It Up
An alternative to the traditional sandwich is a wrap, in which a combination of items such as meat and vegetables are rolled into whole-wheat flat bread or tortillas. The ideas for wraps are wide open, ranging from a peanut tofu wrap to a pizza wrap containing tomato sauce, shredded cheese, cucumber spears and cauliflower florets. A fast, easy wrap can be made by combining deli turkey with sliced bell pepper and sprouts, with a little salt, pepper and mayonnaise or creamy dressing.