The complete guide to feeding your toddler.
Nutrition for children involves the same principles for adults. We all need the right types of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to lead a healthy life. Toddlers on the other hand need varying amounts of particular nutrients as they grow.
A child’s growth significantly develops during the toddler years, so nutrition should be a parent’s top concern. The toddler years can be defined as a transition time between 1 to 4 years old when there is a shift in food and drink in combination with their daily milk intake. Toddlers learn to eat new food and become more receptive to different textures and tastes.
To learn more about the best way to feed your toddler, we have created a complete guide of nutrition basics to fuel your child’s development and growth.
Milk is still an essential part of a toddler’s diet. It offers vitamin D and calcium to aid in building strong bones. Toddlers should consume at least 700 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units of vitamin D each day. You can meet this requirement by feeding your toddler two services of dairy-based food like a glass of milk, yogurt, or cheese every day. Consult with your pediatrician on the recommended vitamin D supplement that best fits your toddler’s needs.
Toddlers between the ages of 1 to 2 years old should drink whole milk that carries all the dietary fat requirements necessary for normal brain development and growth. If your child is slightly overweight or obese runs in the family, consult with your doctor to recommend milk that has a lower fat content to prevent the development of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Some toddlers are unable to drink or eat dairy products due to allergies, or lactose intolerance. Seek other sources of calcium, such as high-quality dairy-free formula. Soy-based beverages, calcium-enriched juices, fortified cereals and bread, beans, and dark green vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, and kale. Picky children can also reject cow’s milk the first time because it does not taste exactly the same as the breast milk or formula they are used to. Start mixing one part of breast milk with one part of whole milk. Increase the cow milk mixture over time until your toddler can’t spot the difference.
Provide the iron
Toddlers should have a minimum of 7 milligrams of iron per day. When they reach their first birthday, they can be at risk of anemia if they are no longer supplied with iron-fortified milk formula. Iron is responsible for supplying the body with oxygen, muscle metabolism, and physical growth.
Provide your toddler with sufficient iron-enriched meals consisting of a balanced variety of meats, poultry, fish, grains, cereals, tofu, and beans. Iron-rich fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes are also abundant in vitamin C.
How much food does your toddler need?
The amount of food provided to your toddler is dependent on their age, size, and energy level. The average calorie intake should range from between 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day.
Nutrition is about balance so it is important to try to provide for your child a wide variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in their diet.
How often does your toddler need to eat?
Your child should be given a balanced portion of protein, fiber, and vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables. Add a small number of healthy oils or fat for energy. Your toddler may take between three quarters to one cup of food, three to four times a day, plus one to two small snacks in between main meals. Always work with small portions first. If you have stopped breastfeeding, your toddler will feel hungrier more often.
When your child learns to walk which is around the age of 1, your toddler’s feeding routine should fit in four to five meals a day, with two healthy snacks. Combine this schedule with one to two cups of milk or dairy-free milk for those who have a milk protein allergy.
What foods to avoid?
Refrain from giving your toddler junk food and carbonated drinks. Overly salty or sweet snacks like mass-produced chips, cookies, cakes, and candies do not contribute to good health. They are stacked with large amounts of sugar, chemicals, and fat which may affect your child’s health in the long run.
Instead, fill your toddler’s stomach with a balanced diet and if they do like something sweet, consider fresh fruit instead.
Provide your toddler with their own food bowl so your child can learn to eat on their own. Do not rush them and give them all the nutritious food that they want. Be patient and prepared to get messy. Help your toddler get the most in their mouths. Extra love and affection, combined with words of encouragement will make them look forward to mealtimes. Let your toddler explore different tastes and textures. Mix their favorite food with something they don’t like as much.
There will be times when certain foods will be pushed aside. Don’t be frustrated or put pressure on your child. Try again the next day. Make eye contact during mealtime and praise your toddler for trying new food. The goal is to make eating a happy experience and for your toddler to have a well-rounded palate for healthy and nutritious foods to allow them to grow into a strong and healthy adult.