The Right ‘Fuel’ for Pre-Schoolers

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 he also needs to start attuning himself 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 include 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 which you can pack for preschool/daycare include: packet milk, yogurt, egg/cheese sandwiches, corn-incup, 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, soybean milk.

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


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, in moderate portions accordance with the recommended number of servings per food group, and consists of a variety of foods in each food group to meet all one’s nutritional needs.

Milk is one of the most nutritionally complete foods needed for growing children. Therefore, milk can be a quick-fix for preschoolers 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 bonebuilding nutrients. An intake of 2-3 cups a day is recommended to help minimise any gaps in nutrient intake that your child may face when sent to preschool 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 occasional less healthy foods which are sweet/savoury or deep-fried or even sugary drinks. This includes perennial Malaysian favourites such as kuih-muih, cendol, ABC, karipap, pisang goreng, sausages, nuggets, air sirap, soft drinks, flavoured fruit drinks, etc. Just remember not to let him over-indulge or become a daily consumption!

An educational collaboration with Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

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