Feeding your toddler can be a walk in the park one day, and then a minefield the next. Food is one of the things a lot of toddlers will try and assert their independence with. What they put in their mouth is controlled by them, so sometimes they can make the experience less than fun! As parents, we know that they need to eat a well-rounded, balanced diet. As toddlers, they only want to eat what they like. Here is what you need to know about toddler nutrition.
As long as toddlers have a diet that encompasses the major food groups, they will get all of the nutrients they need.
Protein (meats, dairy, eggs)
Omega 3 and 6 fats
Your toddler will require at least 6-8 drinks per day. Make sure they have fluids with each meal and snack. Some tips for drinking:
The best drinks to give your toddler are water or milk
Your toddler will require more fluids in warmer weather
Teach your toddler to drink from a cup as opposed to giving every drink in a bottle, this teaches them a valuable skill and protects their teeth from damage
Avoid large quantities of juice as it can reduce your toddler’s appetite and cause loose stools. You may want to consider diluting juice with water also to reduce the sugar intake
Some foods are not so good for your toddler’s diet.
Overly salty foods like chips are no good for your toddler’s kidneys. Keep these types of salty snacks to a minimum
Sugary drinks like juice can cause tooth decay if they are consumed too frequently
Ensure foods that need to be cooked, are cooked through well before giving to your toddler. This includes eggs, shellfish, chicken etc.
Do not give your toddler large fish (such as shark, swordfish or marlin) as they contain mercury
Nuts should be given in moderation if there is a history of food allergies in your family
Parents Are In Control: As a parent you can’t control what toddlers put in their mouth, but you can control what foods are in the house. Select nutritious, balanced foods for your toddler to choose from. They won’t let themselves go hungry, so will eat what is in the house.
Let Them Choose: Give them a range of healthy foods to choose from, then allow them to pick which ones they want to eat. Don’t make them clean their plates as that will only end in a battle. Children are great at eating when they are hungry, and stopping when they are full. Provide enough healthy choices on the plate that they will get a healthy and balanced meal.
Introduce Variety Early: Children will latch onto their favourites very early on, and also decide on their not-so-favourites. Introduce a variety of foods at a young age, and continue to do so as they grow older. Sometimes it may take a few tries to decide if it is something they truly like or dislike.
Don’t Be Limited By the Kids Menu: When you eat out, you do not need to order chicken nuggets or mini hotdogs. Let them try something new, they might like it. Maybe just start with appetizer size meals first though.
Watch Out For Sweet Treats: Keep them just as they are, treats. Sweets and sugary drinks should only be consumed occasionally. Don’t make dessert a reward for finishing dinner. The emphasis then falls on the dessert, and it becomes the main reason for eating dinner. When dessert is the prize, kids put more importance on the pudding than the veges.
Don’t Say ‘I Love You’ With Food: Don’t use food as a reward otherwise children may grow to use food to deal with their emotions. Hugs, praise and affection are far better rewards.
Be A Role Model: Walk the walk and eat healthy meals yourself. Try new things with your toddler and teach good habits by eating balanced, nutritious meals at the table.
As a parent, it can be worrying to know if your toddler is getting all the nutrients they need. But if you supply them with lots of balanced meals that contain the major food groups, they will consume all they need to grow healthy and strong. If you are looking for some inspiration for toddler meals that the whole family will enjoy, then check out our blog on it here.