This is a post by Victoria Berman.
Vicky is a Food & Lifestyle Blogger at AvocadoPesto, where she specializes in healthy living and healthy cooking. She is also a world traveler and has visited over 60 countries.
Forming eating habits that contribute to developing permanent nutritional routines and overall health begins in early childhood. During toddler years or more specifically the age of one to three years old, children gain the motor skills required to feed themselves and develop particular preferences that influence their food selection.
Proper nutrition and healthy eating during these two years of life are essential for healthy growth and development. Simultaneously, numerous developmental changes are happening, so feeding toddlers can often be a challenging task for any parent.
This is the time when toddlers begin to seek independence and control. Additionally, their growth rate gradually slows down, and with this comes a decrease in appetite. These changes can make mealtimes difficult for first-time parents and caregivers.
In this article you’ll get to read up on existing information on all nutritional considerations you should have in mind as well as practical strategies for feeding healthy food to your toddler, what foods you need to avoid, and how to deal with picky eaters. Kids love to play and experiment with food, even though it sometimes causes mess and spills everywhere, it helps them a lot with muscle coordination and motor skills. Choosing the right tableware for toddlers can excite picky eaters to try new food. For instance, Bamboo baby suction plates are not only cute-looking and sustainable, but the silicone suction base will definitely help cut down on mealtime mess.
We encourage all newborn’s parents and caregivers to stay with us and carefully explore this topic to find invaluable nutritional information and give their toddlers a healthy start in life.
Healthy Eating For Toddlers
Nutrient-rich, healthy food for toddlers includes a wide selection from the five healthy food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. Each of these comes with a different set of nutrients that your child needs in order for their body to grow and work properly. For that reason, your toddler needs to eat varied food from all five food groups.
However, going from drinking breast milk or infant formula to eating family meals takes time, and your toddler won’t be eating from all food groups immediately. As babies get older, starting your baby on solids (mashed egg, iron-fortified infant cereal, minced meat, etc.) so that they can get enough iron and other essential nutrients for development and growth is the first step. After that, you can slowly try to include foods from other food groups at each meal.
Fruit And Vegetables
Different fruit and veggies can provide your toddler with vitamins, antioxidants, fibers, water, and the much-needed energy to get through the day. Including them in your toddler’s diet can help protect your child against any health complications later in life, including heart diseases and cancers.
It’s nice to begin by offering them small amounts of fruit and vegetables at every meal and for snacks. Always try to select fruit and veggies with different colors, tastes, and textures, both fresh and cooked. Don’t forget to wash them, remove all dirt and chemicals before you serve them, and try to leave some part of the skin because the skin contains essential nutrients too.
Grain foods that are healthy for your toddler include bread, cereals, noodles, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, oats, quinoa, barley, and more. These grainy foods will give your kid the energy they need to grow, develop, and learn new life activities.
When shopping for grain foods for your toddler, look for those with a low glycaemic index, like wholegrain bread and pasta.
The key dairy products you need to include in your toddler’s diet are milk, yogurt, and cheese. All these foods are exceptionally high in both protein and calcium. However, make sure that breast milk or infant formula is your baby’s main drink until they turn one.
Once older, your baby can start drinking full-fat cow’s milk. Since toddlers are growing up so quickly and need lots of energy, make sure to include full-fat dairy products in their diet.
Photo from Pixabay
Foods rich in protein include chicken, fish, lean meat, beans, lentils, eggs, and tofu. Protein-rich foods are vital for your toddler’s muscle development.
Other than proteins, these foods contain numerous useful vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids and iron from red meat and oily fish are essential for your kid’s brain development, learning ability, and quality of sleep.
Foods And Drinks You Need To Avoid
As your child is learning to eat solid foods and becomes more active, it’s imperative to avoid foods that may cause choking or food poisoning. Children under five tend to have weaker immune systems than adults, making food poisoning very dangerous for this age group. Here’s what you need to avoid:
- Small and hard foods like seeds, nuts, popcorn, pretzels, raw carrots, raisins, and chips;
- Sticky foods like peanut butter or marshmallows;
- Slippery foods like large pieces of meat, whole grapes, poultry, hot dogs, and candy.
Cut up the food in small bite-size pieces, and make sure that you actively observe your child while eating. Besides, have in mind that your child may have some food allergies. The most common food allergies include eggs, milk, nuts, wheat, fish, and soybeans. In case you think that your child might be allergic to some food, immediately talk with their doctor.
Nutritionally speaking, you should avoid all foods that are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar, and low in fibers and other useful nutrients. Overeating these unhealthy foods can increase your toddler’s risk of childhood obesity and unwanted conditions like type-2 diabetes.
Besides food, you should also strongly avoid encouraging your toddler to try sweet drinks like sweetened fruit juice, sports drinks, flavored water and milk, and soft drinks. All these drinks are high in sugar, very low in nutrients, and can cause weight gain, obesity, and tooth decay. If children start on these drinks when they’re very young, it can kick off an unhealthy lifelong habit.
Healthy Substitutes For Snacks And Desserts
It’s perfectly fine to offer your child some snacks and desserts from time to time, but try to make sure that they’re healthy instead of high in salt or sugar. For example, instead of heavily salted chips, offer them a thinly sliced or grated carrot for a snack.
The same can be said about desserts at the end of each meal. Yogurt and sliced fruit is the safest and healthiest option. If you want to serve them something special, try baking homemade banana bread that is not hard to make, and kids love it. Save the seriously sweet foods, like chocolates and cakes, for exceptional events like birthdays.
What If Your Toddler Is A Picky Eater?
Most parents presume that their toddlers will be “over the moon” to experience new foods. On the other hand, many toddlers often stick to what they’re familiar with and are unwilling to try new foods.
While in toddlerhood, kids don’t like change and want a perception of control and independence. Other times, they just want to continue playing and are not interested in having their scheduled meal whatsoever.
Photo from Pixabay
Luckily, there are a couple of ways to motivate your toddler to try new foods, endorse their will for independence, and support them to establish healthy eating habits. In case your toddler’s a picky eater, you should know that the way you offer new foods and the general eating environment can make a tremendous impact on how your toddler eats. Here’s what to do:
- When putting new foods on your child’s platter, offer one new item at a time alongside a familiar food. Children may need to try something new ten or more times before they accept it, so remember to stay persistent.
- Make food simple, plain, and recognizable. Many toddlers don’t like food that’s mixed or food that’s touching.
- Never force your toddler to eat the food they don’t like. Always offer multiple food choices so that they can pick something they want.
The toddler years are years of remarkable physical growth and development. It’s also the time when it’s essential to establish lasting healthy eating habits that will stick with your child throughout their entire life.
Photo from Moms
Proper nutrition will give your child what they need for growth, health, energy for playing, moving, and learning. That’s why you need to make sure you kickstart your children’s eating habits with healthy choices and never forget to lead by example.