Making sure your child eats healthy foods during the first 2 years of your child’s life is vital for healthy growth and development. Starting with good nutritional practices from a young age can develop healthy dietary patterns later on in life. Although it can be challenging, keep in mind that the reason for this is the fact that changes are happening and toddlers strive for independence and control.
A good plan for toddler nutrition is very important, especially once they become independent and start trying out new foods and drinks. What’s important is to set limits and provide a variety of foods to help your toddler eat a healthy diet. Below is a simple guide on healthy food choices for a healthier child.
Vegetables are a vital part of every child’s diet. Always include about 3-5 servings of veggies a day, either fresh, frozen, dried, canned or in smoothies. Include a variety of colorful veggies but also legumes and starchy vegetables.
For example, a serving may consist of ¾ cup of vegetable juice, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or ½ cup of other vegetables either cooked or chopped.
Fruits are as vital for a child’s growth and development as veggies since they consist of plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water. Always choose different colors and textures to make it more fun. Most often parents make fruit juices but remember to limit them as they can be quite sugary.
For example, you can give them 2-4 servings per day, and it can consist of ¾ cups of fruit juice, or ½ cups of sliced fruit like a banana, apple, or pear.
Food like rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals provide energy as well as calcium and B vitamins. Include at least 5 small portions a day, but remember to introduce them gradually since they can make the diet very bulky. Food like brown rice and wholegrain cereals are great as they can provide extra nutrients.
For example, you can give your child ½ cup of rice or pasta, 1 slice of bread, or 1 ounce of cereal, for each serving, just remember to aim for whole-grain foods.
Protein food includes meat, eggs, fish, nuts, lentils, or tofu, and you can include about 2 portions per day. These types of foods provide minerals like iron and zinc, and it’s useful to include oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and fresh tuna once or twice a week.
For example, you can include 2-3 servings per day of lean meat, fish, or poultry. If you want to avoid meat, you can also include ½ cup of cooked beans or an egg.
Dairy food like milk, yogurt, and cheese is important for toddlers as they are a great source of calcium and protein, and you can include 3 servings per day. Toddlers are growing quickly and they need lots of energy and so they need full-fat dairy products until they turn 2.
For instance, you can include 1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt or ½ ounces of cheese.
Helpful information about feeding toddlers
Feeding toddlers can be sometimes challenging, as they can be picky with the foods they like or dislike. The solution might be trying healthy supplements that are used as a sole source of nutrition, or you can use other creative ways to make them eat. Here are some tips:
- Never force your child to eat something that they don’t like. You can show them how tasty it is by eating it yourself or giving it to another family member. After some time they will ask for it themselves.
- Be flexible when trying new things, as toddlers can be quite reluctant to try something new. And don’t forget to introduce healthy snacks like thinly sliced carrots or an apple.
- Cooking and shopping together can be a great way to encourage your toddler to make healthy choices by letting them select healthy foods they like.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids, especially during and after completing physical activities to avoid dehydration.
- Be creative! This is a must with picky eaters, as they will always want to try something that looks cool and fun rather than simple.
- Make the food intake time inviting by serving whatever yummies they will have in child-friendly and playful tableware. A fox or a bunny-shaped baby plate with a suction base or a colorful sippy cup can make lunchtime exciting and adventurous.
As toddler years are a time of transition, parents also face difficulties trying to introduce new foods and healthy habits that will last for a lifetime. Remember that good nutrition is a top priority for the growth and development of toddlers. Get creative by always introducing new foods that they might like more. And remember, talk to your doctor about any concerns regarding your child’s eating habits.