Feeding Guide: 4-5 Years

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At 3 years old children can eat everything the family is eating, but it is still important to consider choking risks until age 5.

Feeding Guide: 4-5 year old
Food Groups Child-Size Serving Examples* Servings Per Day

Grains

Offer at least half the grains whole grain or fortified with iron and B-vitamins. (whole grain, whole wheat flour, whole oats, whole corn should be listed first in the ingredient list.) These foods will give your child energy needed for growth and development and are a good source of fiber.

½ oz serving

1 slice bread

½ muffin, bagel, biscuit (small)

½ hot dog or hamburger buns

½ cup ready-to-eat cereal

½ cup cooked cereal

½ cup pasta or rice

4-6 crackers

½ 6-inch tortilla

5 oz.

Vegetables

Vegetables provide your child with a good source of vitamin A every day. These foods will help your child develop good eyesight and keep skin and hair healthy. Vary the types of vegetables throughout the week.

¼ cup serving

3 asparagus spears

2″ ear of corn on the cob

½ med carrot or 3 baby carrots

¼ cup cooked, canned, chopped raw

¼ sweet or white potato

½ cup raw leafy green vegetables

2 cups

Fruits

Fruits provide your child with a good source of vitamin C every day. These foods will help your child’s body absorb iron and help prevent infections. Do not offer more than six ounces of 100% juice a day. Juices can be diluted with water. Focus on whole fruits more often than other types.

¼ cup serving

¼ small apple (2.5” round)

¼ large banana (8”-9” long)

¼ cup (2 fl oz) 100% fruit juice (max 1-2/day)

¼ cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit (ie. applesauce, fruit salad, etc.)

1/8 cup dried fruit

1½ cup

Protein

These foods are a good source of protein and iron. Protein helps build and repair body tissues like skin, bone, hair, blood, and muscle. Iron rich foods help your child have healthy, strong blood.

1 oz serving

1-3 Tbsp of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish

¼ cup of cooked beans

¼ cup of tofu

1 slice deli meat (warmed to steaming hot)

1 egg

1 Tablespoon of peanut butter

5 oz.

Dairy

Dairy foods keep bones and teeth strong. Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk for 2-5 year olds. Your WIC health professional can guide you on what type of milk is best for your child.

½ cup serving

½ cup whole milk

½ cup yogurt

1 ½ oz natural cheese (9-volt size battery) = 1 cup milk

1 ½ slices processed cheese

1 cup cottage cheese

3 cups

Other Calories

Limit for all ages, genders, and physical activity levels (Includes sugars, other fats, butter, margarine, sugar, candy, jam, syrup, soft drinks, cake, cookies, pie, chips, etc.)

Water

Children should drink water between all meals and snacks to quench their thirst. Water intake will vary but should always be the main source of hydration throughout the day. 4-5 year olds should consume 1.7 Liters (L) of total water per day. This includes about 5 cups (1.2 L) as total beverages, including drinking water.

Physical Activity

Children 3-5 should be encouraged to move and engage in active play as well as in structured activities, such as throwing games and bicycle or tricycle riding. Include activities like hopping, skipping, jumping, and tumbling. A reasonable target may be 3 hours per day of activity of all intensities: light, moderate, or vigorous intensity.

*Serving Size Hand Symbols for the Average Adult

Serving sizes based on the average caloric intake for 4-5 year olds of 1300-1600 calories per day. (NCM)

Most children do not need to take a multivitamin to meet their nutritional needs. If you have concerns about a certain food group or nutrient, talk to your WIC Dietitian or pediatrician for more information. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/nutrition-fitness/Pages/A-Vitamin-a-Day.aspx)

Sources:
• Nutrition Care Manual: Preschool Children Suggested Portion Sizes
• Physical activity: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
• Water: https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right/water-go-with-the-flow

Parents Teach Good Food Habits

As children grow, they are watching for clues on food choices. Children will copy many habits, likes and dislikes. When making food choices, actions speak louder than words. 

If you want your child to develop a preference for nutritious foods, consider the following:

  • Parents are the best judges of what, when, and where a child should eat. Children are the best judges of how much and whether to eat. See section Healthy Eating Tips for Parents for more information.
  • Develop good food habits yourself to lead by example.
  • Introduce nutritious foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables at an early age.
  • Avoid talk about foods you do not like. Talk about foods you enjoy.
  • Never assume that a child will not like a food. Give them a chance to try!
  • Be willing to try new recipes and foods.
  • If your child does not eat at mealtime, remain calm. When the next meal is served, give the child his/her food as you usually would. Any snack between meals should be nutritious.
  • Do not make an issue of refusal to eat. Some children choose this behavior because they get lots of attention.
  • Encourage your child to help in shopping for, planning, and preparing meals & snacks.
  • Serve regular meals and snacks.
  • Buy nutritious food. 
  • Make mealtime pleasant and fun.

Juice

Fruit juice tastes great, but it has lots of sugar. It can leave little kids too full for healthier foods and harm their teeth.

  • If juice is offered to a child over 12 months, always provide 100% juice and limit your child to half a cup a day (4 ounces). 
  • Try mixing with water so the child drinks less.
  • Keep in mind that even 100% juice does not offer the important fiber that fresh and frozen fruits offer. There is no nutrition benefit of 100% fruit juice over whole fruit.

Sweetened Drinks

All kids 5 and under should avoid drinking flavored milks, toddler formulas, plant-based/non-dairy milks (except for children with milk allergies), caffeinated beverages, sugar-sweetened drinks, and low-calorie sweetened beverages, as these beverages can be big sources of added sugars in young children’s diets and provide no unique nutritional value.

Snacks

Snacks make up an important part of a child’s nutrition. Young children are growing rapidly and need small frequent meals and snacks. In planning snacks, you need to select nutritious foods to help promote this rapid growth.

Plan snacks. Schedule them around the normal events of the day and offer at least 2 hours before a meal so that your child is hungry at meal time. Children should learn to get hungry, instead of feeling full all the time. Serve water between meals to quench your child’s thirst.

Include a variety of foods. Selections can be made from any of the food groups. Foods in the fats, oils and sugars group provide many calories but few nutrients. Foods from this group should be used only occasionally.

Healthy snack ideas

  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit like bananas, peaches, oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, berries, avocados, fruit smoothies, unsweetened applesauce.
  • Vegetables: any soft, cooked vegetables, 100% tomato or vegetable juice 
  • Dairy (milk products): plain yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese cubes, string cheese
  • Protein: hard boiled eggs, tuna chunks, cheese cubes, Greek yogurt
  • Grains: whole grain crackers, cereal, bread, tortillas

Snacks to avoid

  • Chips, fries, doughnuts, pastries, cakes, cookies, candy, pie, sweetened cereal, fruit snacks, high sodium lunch meats like bologna, pop and sweetened drinks

Variety

  • Offer your child small amounts of different kinds of food. 
  • Make food interesting – offer bright colored food and different shapes at each meal.

See section on Picky Eating if your child is having a hard time trying and liking new foods.

Fish

Fish is an important part of a healthy eating pattern for young children to promote growth and development. Fish provides:

  • Protein
  • Healthy omega-3 fats (called DHA and EPA)
  • More vitamin B12 and vitamin D than any other type of food
  • Iron and other minerals like selenium, zinc, and iodine

Serve fish to children 1-2 times per week from a variety of fish. On average, a serving size is about:

  • 1 ounce for children ages 2-3 years, 
  • 2 ounces for children ages 4-7 years, 
  • 3 ounces for children ages 8-10 years and 
  • 4 ounces for children 11 years and older

Many types of fish are both nutritious and lower in mercury. Use this guide to determine the best choices of fish to offer your family and those to avoid.

Sources: Healthy Eating Research, USDA Infant Nutrition and Feeding – A Guide for Use in WIC, FDA, FDA


This post was last updated on March 31st, 2021 at 3:56 PM

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