In February, we started our new series Healthy Eating and Reading. Choose MyPlate has a wonderful new resource available to guide us on our exploration. It is the Healthy Eating for Preschoolers handout. The front page has helpful tips for parents and caregivers. The back page shows how much a preschool child should eat each day from the different food groups. This is a great handout to print out for parents.
Back to our exploration…this month’s focus is on the dairy food group. Dairy is important because it provides the calcium and Vitamin D children need for growing bones and teeth. Foods in this group include milk, yogurt, cheese and calcium fortified beverages such as soy milk.
Most 2-3 year olds should eat or drink cups of dairy each day and most 4-8 year olds should eat or drink 2 ½ cups of dairy each day. If a child does not like dairy foods or dairy foods are not part of his/her culture, the child can drink calcium-fortified juices, rice milk, or almond milk. Other calcium rich foods include canned sardines and salmon with bones. Visit MyPlate for more information on the dairy food group.
Children are fascinated with cows and milk. There are several books that follow milk from the cow to the table (check out the Dairy Section of Michigan Team Nutrition Booklist). One example is “Extra Cheese, Please” by Cris Peterson. This book introduces children to Annabelle the cow and follows the journey Annabelle’s milk takes from the farm to the table as cheese for pizza.
Since most children enjoy cheese and pizza, this is a fun story to read to children. Following the story, have children make their own mini-pizza from using an English muffin topped with pizza sauce and cheese baked for about 8 minutes. While children are waiting for the pizzas to bake, talk about dairy foods and how they help build strong bones. If you don’t have access to an oven, you can do the same activity with crackers and not bake them.
Take some time this month to explore books about dairy and read them to children. This is a wonderful way to make healthy eating part of a child’s day!
Mary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps
to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources. Specifically
the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity
prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community
professionals. You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: