Young Child’s Diet Must Furnish Growth, Energy

The two to five-year-old child is growing rapidly, and frequently changes and additions to his diet are advisable. He is gaining about five pounds a year in weight, and about one and one-half inches in height. He requires from his food enough material to supply him with tissue for this growth, and also from his food enough to keep him warm and to allow him to engage in the energy requiring activity which is natural to him at that time.

“Food for the young child is a serious business upon which his whole progress in life largely depends,” writes Mary S. Rose, the well-known nutrition expert.

A balanced diet for a child at this age is one providing a sufficient quantity of protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals, vitamins, water and laxative foods. Protein is a necessary part of the tissues of the body, especially the muscles. Carbohydrates and fat furnish the energy and heat. Of the minerals, calcium, phosphorus and iron are the most important. Laxative foods are necessary to stimulate regular elimination, and water must be supplied to replace the daily loss from the body, and also to help in the digestion of the food.


The diet at this age should include:

1. One quart of milk daily. This will provide protein, and calcium, phosphorus, and some of the vitamins.

2. An egg daily. It provides protein, used by the body to promote growth, and is especially rich in iron and vitamins.

3. A small amount of meat, approximately three tablespoons, twice a week. Liver, kidney, sweetbreads, brains, beef, lamb and chicken can be used.

4. Vegetables and fruits daily. These provide vitamins, minerals and the laxative factor. The child should have two cooked vegetables, one of which should be a green vegetable; one raw vegetable, and one raw fruit and one cooked fruit during the day. The vegetables which are suitable for a child this age are cauliflower, carrots, beets, cabbage, spinach, turnips, onions, squash, peas, beans, tomatoes, asparagus and potatoes. Sandwiches made of chopped raw vegetables are usually relished.

5. Cereals once or possibly twice daily to supply minerals and vitamins. A child will eat 4 to 8 tablespoons served with milk.

6. Whole wheat bread at each meal, with butter.


7. Cod liver oil; half a teaspoon daily is enough to supply Vitamin D. It can be given after a meal or in the middle of the morning in orange or tomato juice.

8. Two cups of water daily, to be taken between meals.

Food for children of this age should be prepared simply—either boiled, baked or broiled. Creamed vegetables and cream soups may be used to utilize part of the daily milk requirement. Such simple desserts as cream tapioca, chocolate pudding, junket and custard are appreciated and wholesome. Salt and pepper should be used sparingly.

Foods are usually better when cooked without sugar. The eating of sugar is largely a habit, and can be encouraged or discouraged by the method of preparation of food.