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Our 5-Rule Food Guide for Children Ages 3 to 5 Years Old
  • Matamlay and maputla are adjectives parents don't like hearing when it comes to their preschool-age child. The key, of course, is a balanced diet coupled with adequate sleep and physical activity to help your child with his growth and energy. For children between 3 to 5 years old, here is a food guide on meal prep and daily nutritional rules to keep in mind. 

    (Note: If your child has specific health conditions, always ask the advice of a doctor for his nutritional needs.) 

    1. Try to follow ideal food portion servings
    The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has meal recommendations for kids ages 3 to 5 years old as part of its Pinggang Pinoy food guide. Your child’s plate should contain the following at every meal: 

    • Carbohydrates - 1/2 cup of rice (also equivalent to 2 small pandesals) 
    • Protein - 1/2 serving (about 15 grams) of lean meat
    • Vegetables - 1/2 cup
    • Fruit - 1/2 to 1 medium-sized fruit (like a banana) 


    • The serving of vegetables should be as much as the meal’s serving of rice
    • Veggies and rice (or other carbohydrates) combined will take up a little more than half of your child's plate
    • The serving of fruit should be as much as the serving of protein (like chicken, pork, or beef). 

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    2. Beverage requirements are 5 glasses of water and 1 glass of milk per day
    Per FNRI food guidelines, 3- to 5-year-olds should be getting five or more glasses of water and one glass of milk per day. A glass is equivalent to 8 ounces. 

    Calcium is an essential part of your child’s daily dietary needs, and milk can provide his calcium needs for bone growth, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

    Have water within easy reach of your child instead of sweetened beverages like powdered juice or soda. Getting your child used to the taste of water sets him on a healthy eating path for life. “It’s one of the healthiest habits to start early,” pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann tells The Bump.  

    3. Watch out for sugar

    Your child can only have six teaspoons of added sugar a day (less than 25 grams), according to guidelines from the American Heart Association. Some foods that contain added sugar are sweetened juice drinks, soft drinks, cookies, candy, cakes, and ice cream.

    Based on these recommendations, your preschooler can only drink two sugar-sweetened chocolate milk drinks, 110 mL in size each, in a WEEK. It is best to check the amount of sugar in a store-bought juice box in the nutritional table found on the package. 

    A diet high in added sugars is strongly associated with weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal cholesterol and fatty liver disease in children. 

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    4. Provide snacks that can fill in daily nutritional needs
    We want our children's meals to have an adequate serving of each food group. However, we know it isn't always possible with a picky eater. When this happens, turn to snacks and merienda as a nutrition filler. 

    As much as possible, skip packaged snacks at the supermarket. As per the FNRI, Pinoy rice cakes like suman and root crops like boiled camote make for good morning and afternoon snacks. Renee Rose Rodrigo, a certified holistic nutrition coach, recommends cheese, carrot sticks, yogurt and even potato chips. (Find her 3-day sample meal plan for tots here.)

    5. Ask your child’s pediatrician about vitamin supplements
    Food is the best source of nutrients for a balanced, healthy, and nutritious diet, explains developmental pediatrician Dr. Rita Paz Rowena A. De Guzman. However, vitamin supplements become essential when a child's daily nutritional needs aren't met, she adds. 

    For example, kids today may not be getting enough sunlight (vitamin D) since they spend less and less time playing outside, says the pediatrician. “If you don't provide enough vitamin D, you end up with children who may have problems with growth, with their bones.”

    Before giving your child multivitamins, it's best to consult a pediatrician first. “We ask about diet, and if it doesn't seem to be sufficient — and in most cases, it isn't — then you have to give your vitamins,” says Dr. De Guzman. Your child's doctor will be able to prescribe the most suited vitamin supplement for your little one. 

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