Get ready preschoolers, you’re getting your own food pyramid.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled MyPyramid for Preschoolers at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Chicago late last month.

Brian Wansink, executive director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, introduced this new nutrition tool as part of an ongoing campaign called “Project M.O.M.” that he has spearheaded since joining USDA last year.

“We have refocused our general advice to everyone and are now honing in on the nutritional gatekeepers who purchase and prepare most of the family food,” Wansink said. He believes educating these nutritional gatekeepers – moms, dads or other caregivers – is the most efficient way to transform the way Americans eat.

The new MyPyramid for Preschoolers is intended to help parents make better food choices for preschool children, aged 2 to 5 years – a critical time when food habits and taste preferences are established. Keeping tabs on calories is a bigger reality today than ever before, considering that nearly 15 percent of preschoolers in this country are overweight.

What you’ll find by visiting the new preschool section on is not simply a new cartoon-like version of the iconic pyramid for adults. Instead, you’ll discover a comprehensive how-to guide on children’s nutrition that may have you rethinking your current approach.

“We have not just provided the ‘what,’ we’ve really taken it to the next level,” Wansink said, referring to the educational style of the materials. “We’re showing parents exactly how you do this.”

Indeed, the information on the Web site is about as concrete as you can get. If you’re concerned that your child is eating too little or too much, or if you’re simply not sure what counts as a serving, you can customize a pyramid to get detailed information about what and how much to feed your child based on age, gender and activity level. You’ll even find kid-friendly meal and snack ideas.

Several real-life strategies are provided to help parents introduce new foods to preschoolers – a notoriously picky bunch who often stick to a beige, chicken nuggets-dominated diet. You’ll find lots of tips for encouraging your child to eat a variety of vegetables, including seeing you eating and enjoying them too.

Perhaps most compelling is a section that focuses on how to talk to your preschooler about food. Unknowingly, many parents may be doing more harm than good when they coerce their kids into eating certain foods or use food as a reward, Wansink said.

In this clever section titled “phrases that help and hinder,” you can learn to reframe your food discussions to be more positive. For example, instead of enforcing a clean plate rule, sample words are provided to help your child recognize when he or she is full, such as “Is your stomach still making its hungry growling noise?” Instead of using phrases that teach your child to eat for your approval or love, such as “If you do not eat one more bite, I will be mad,” alternative phrases are offered to help your child try something new by pointing out the sensory qualities of food, such as “These radishes are very crunchy!”

The benefits of eating together as a family is a major focus of the initiative and ideas are offered to make family mealtime more enjoyable and less stressful, including recipes for quick, nutritious and economical meals. Sample substitutions are provided to help your preschooler eat less fat and added sugars. These “extras” can add more calories than your child needs.

After the unveiling this weekend, you can access MyPyramid for Preschoolers and related links at

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