Toddlers : Nutrition
Updated: Feb 5
Your baby is now officially a toddler – they may be into everything, moving around and learning and growing – and with that their mealtimes will change too.
It is natural for toddlers to become fussy eaters, which may be attributed to growth patterns and developmental changes. Children at this age are easily distracted by the new world around them, as they become more aware, mobile and independent – so they may not feel they have time for food. Some children reject a new food up to 10 times before they taste it and enjoy it. Trying and enthusiastically enjoying the same food in front of your toddler can help pique their interest. If your child still rejects the specific type of food, try again in a few months – as your toddler’s tastes can and likely will change.
Your toddler may not take large amounts of food in one sitting, so aim to offer three main meals and two or three snacks per day. Try not to worry if your toddler pushes food away – they will eat when they are hungry and will take in enough for their needs. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the amount of food your toddler is eating, as always speak to your Healthcare Provider.
What to Feed your Toddler
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may be continuing with breastmilk while incorporating complimentary foods or snacks, or you may have decided to wean your baby off breastmilk entirely. If this is the case you will need to ensure your toddler is still getting the calcium they need – alternating between serves of milk, cheese, custard or yoghurt daily with an aim of providing three serves of calcium a day is recommended.
From around 12-18 months your toddler can eat the same food as the rest of the family, provided it is not overly spicy, is low in fat and has no added salt. Food should be chopped into toddler-friendly pieces. Eating together as a family will help encourage a healthy appreciation for mealtime. Sitting around the dinner table is great or mix it up by having a picnic in the backyard or making a floor-setting table in the living room.
You can help your toddler develop their tastes for fresh, unprocessed food by offering as many tastes as possible. Children watch what you are eating. The easiest way to establish good eating habits is by eating well yourself. Naturally, if a toddler sees you eating chips and drinking a soft drink, they will want that too. It is important to try and keep fatty and high sugar content food and drinks to a minimum. Keep sweets to a minimal occasional treat, as something special, or make a healthy alternative treat such as fruit salad or some yoghurt with berries.
Basic Nutritional Needs & Suggestions
Protein – essential for physical growth and helps develop strong and healthy children. Offer peas, lentils, legumes, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, eggs, fish, chicken, meat, milk, yoghurt and cheese.
Calcium – vital for building strong bones and teeth, promoting nerve and muscle function and converting food into energy. Offer milk, cheese, yoghurt, tofu (check the label as calcium content varies depending on the brand), spinach and leafy green and wholegrain bread.
Fruit & Vegetables – nutrients, minerals and fibre which is vital for healthy bodies inside and out. Offer green veggies, carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, zucchini …. the list goes on, the more the better!
Starchy Carbs – provides energy and high in fibre. The more fibre they contain, the slower they will burn. Offer fibre-rich bread, quinoa, wholegrain rice, couscous, pasta, cornbread, pancake, low sugar cereals and whole oats.
Unsaturated Fats – these ‘good’ fats play a vital role in building brain and nerve cells. They help children’s bodies produce good cholesterol and aids in blood circulation. These fats are found in fish (tinned or fresh), avocado, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meat and cold-pressed vegetable oils such as olive, canola, sunflower or grapeseed.
Water – the cheapest and healthiest source of fluids. Most tap water is fortified with fluoride for strong teeth.
How to Feed your Toddler
By this stage your toddler will most likely be feeding themselves, using their fingers and chewing their food well. Your toddler may be showing interest in easting with a spoon, watching you eat with cutlery will inspire your toddler to mimic you. Remember during these attempts at feeding themselves, your toddler may end up with more food on the table (or floor) than in their mouths so be aware you may need to help them eat to get enough nutrition from their meal. Your toddler may be drinking from a cup, with some help from you.
You may want to get creative with your toddler’s meals, especially if they are fussy eaters. Choosing interesting colours and textures, pretending broccoli and cauliflower are little tree forests, or cutting sandwiches with cookie cutters are just a few fun options.
All children’s tastes will vary, you may have one child who loves veggies while your toddler seems to reject every variety you offer. With so many options you will no doubt discover alternatives, and as always discuss any questions or concerns you have with your healthcare provider.
Raisingchildren.net.au. (2018, December 13). Healthy eating habits for kids. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/healthy-eating-habits/healthy-eating-habits
Raisingchildren.net.au. (2018, December 13). Healthy food for babies and toddlers: the five food groups. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/daily-food-guides/babies-toddlers-food-groups