Healthy Meals Designed for Preschoolers

Use this guide to feed your preschool-aged child healthy meals with confidence, and without stress.

Child Opening a Yumble Kids Meals Box
Child Opening a Yumble Kids Meals Box

Defining preschool age helps determine the right meals

Children ages 2 to 5 are considered to be in the ‘preschool’ age group. Children generally experience rapid growth and development during these years. According to the USDA, children grow an average of 2 inches per year, and gain 4 to 5 pounds. However, growth during this time may vary with each child, and parents should consult with their child’s doctor if they have questions about whether their child’s growth is on track.

It is important that parents provide healthy meals for preschoolers to support this development and teach healthy eating habits later in life.


Nutritional needs for healthy preschool meals

The overall daily nutrition needs for a preschooler varies according to age, gender and activity level. For example, a 3 year-old girl who only gets 30 minutes of activity per day only needs about 1000 calories, while a 4 year-old boy who is active for an hour or more per day needs around 1600 calories.

Generally, a meal pattern of 3 meals and 2 snacks per day fits the needs for a preschool-aged child. It’s best if preschooler lunch, other meals, and snacks are served at regular times each day. Do your best to keep healthy, kid-friendly snacks on hand, like an apple with peanut butter or cherry tomatoes with cheese.

Peanut Butter and Apples Kids Snack

Parents are often confused about appropriate serving sizes. MyPlate by USDA is a great visual guide to portion healthy meals for preschoolers. The basic concept of MyPlate is to make half of your (or your child’s) plate fruits and veggies, with the remainder being protein, whole grains and dairy.

MyPlate emphasizes variety and balance. Click here to check out the visual guide, and download to use later when packing a healthy lunch for your preschoolers or other meal.

Your child may want to eat more or less of the preschool meals you serve. Kids are born with an innate sense for how much food they need, and their needs will vary during times of development. That means their appetite will vary, too. Simply offer a variety of healthy foods each day, and do your best to let them decide how much they eat at meal times. This will help them build healthy eating habits for later in life.

USA recommended kids portion sizes

Children grow and develop right before our eyes during the preschool years. It’s important for parents to encourage developmental milestones and eating behaviors. Awareness of these stages of development helps children become better eaters and enjoy preschooler lunches and other meals


Kids Age 2-3 Ages
2–3

According to the USDA, the main developmental eating milestones between at this age is motor skills. For example, preschoolers at this age are perfecting their ability to use utensils and drink from an open cup, or maybe even use a napkin. These young preschoolers also begin to develop more of an opinion about their foods, and may experience an appetite drop as growth slows a bit.

Kids Age 4-5 Ages
4–5

Opinions about food and attitudes towards healthy meals for preschoolers continue to change as children age to 4 and 5 years-old, and they will start to pay more attention to what others are eating around them. This is when being a good role model at meal time is important! Kids at this age are easily distracted, so parents should serve breakfast, dinner, and healthy lunches for preschoolers at the table, free of distraction. As a child approaches 5 years-old, he or she is more likely to try and accept more foods.

The best way to ensure you are serving healthy preschooler lunches and other meals is to focus on balance and variety. Choose a colorful selection of whole foods each day, and limit added sugar and salt. The following food groups are especially important for development and should be included in a healthy preschooler meal plan:

Yumble Fruits and Vegetables Icons

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fruits are usually more popular among preschoolers, while vegetables take more time to accept. Even if your preschooler refuses vegetarian meals for kids initially, you can help them get what they need by consistently trying to offer these foods or even disguise vegetables in preschool meals.

Yumble Grains Icons

Grains

Grains are another fiber-rich food group, which is important for intestinal health. Whole grains are also rich in vitamins and minerals, which is why it’s important to make healthy meals for preschoolers that are at least half whole grains. In addition to whole grain bread, this group includes brown rice and pasta, oats, quinoa, wheat berries and millet.

Yumble Dairy Icons

Dairy

Dairy is rich in calcium and vitamin D, both important for growing strong bones. After your child turns 2, you may switch from whole milk to low-fat dairy products. Choose unflavored and unsweetened milk as often as possible, and try to offer yogurt with less than 12 grams of sugar per serving.

Yumble Fish and Meat Icons

Protein

Not only is protein important for growth, but protein-rich foods are also good sources of iron. Lean meat, chicken, and fish are excellent sources of protein. Vegetarian options such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils are great choices as well for healthy meals for preschoolers.

At this age, it is normal for children to refuse foods based on color or texture, or to choose only a few foods that he or she likes to eat. These picky eater behaviors will likely go away with time, but parents can still encourage their preschooler to eat healthy.

A hungry child is more likely to eat preschooler lunch or other meals, so keep meal and snack times consistent to ensure that your child is hungry at meal time. Remember to choose what and when your child eats, but allow your preschooler to choose how much he or she eats.

For difficult foods, avoid pressuring your child to eat and simply offer those foods on a regular basis. Don’t forget that your behavior influences your child’s choices as well, so lead by example!

Try offering new foods in small portions with preschool meals to avoid overwhelming your child. Continue to offer these foods even if your preschooler refuses to eat them the first few times. Don’t be afraid to offer difficult foods with a fun but healthy dip. For more of MyPlate’s picky eater tips, click here.

Here at Yumble, we have a wide variety of healthy meals for preschoolers that are designed with their developmental and nutritional meals in mind. Our nutritionist-approved, ready-to-eat preschool meals are made with the freshest ingredients for a wholesome option that’s easy, quick, and delicious. Here are a few of our favorites:

Yumble Multigrain Mac and Cheese Kids Meal

Multigrain Mac & Cheese

A healthy preschooler lunch favorite, our Multigrain Mac & Cheese is made with fiber-rich whole grain pasta and served with parmesan broccoli. Don’t be fooled by the lack of meat - this vegetarian dish is packed with 11 grams of protein!

Yumble Chicken Pops Preschooler Meal

Chicken Pops

This fun and healthy alternative to chicken nuggets is served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Chicken Pops boast 15 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, which means this preschool meal is sure to keep your kid full to avoid in-between-meal snacking.

Yumble Pizza Bagel Preschooler Lunch

Traditional Pizza Bagel

Yep - pizza is the star of this healthy lunch for preschoolers! Our tasty whole-wheat Traditional Pizza Bagel is served with baby carrots and a satisfyingly sweet Protein Popper. Did we mention that this healthy preschool meal provides 5 grams of fiber?

Yumble meals check all the boxes of healthy meals for preschoolers, while pleasing picky eaters and saving time for busy parents. To learn more about our meals and try some for yourself, click here.