Healthy food for toddlers
You've already gotten your baby off to a great start by making sure that his or her nutrition is complete and correct, but now your child has grown into a toddler and won't eat! How do you ensure that your child gets everything he or she needs without making food a power struggle? These tips will help you serve food to your toddler and have you both actually enjoy the process.
Toddler Nutritional Needs
Your toddler is a vastly different being than your baby was — he or she is not only bigger, but also has a mind of his or her own! Toddlers are known for their limit-testing, which can make feeding toddler tummies hard when your well-balanced meal is upended onto the floor with a big smile. Here are some ways to make sure your toddler is getting enough:
- Provide three meals a day and healthy snacks for your toddler. Toddler nutrition should take the form of finger foods that can be easily picked up with little fingers. Examples include berries, grapes, cut-up apple slices, carrot sticks, cheese cubes, avocado slices and small pieces of lunch meat.
- Don't force your toddler to eat or make a big deal over it — if your child knows that you're going to react, he or she will try to get your attention by not eating. Instead, set out toddler food in places where your toddler can easily reach it — by the play area on a small table, for example. Toddlers are grazers — their tummies are small, so they don't always need a lot of food at once. Let your toddler come to the food and eat when he or she is hungry; don't force it.
- Follow the food pyramid for toddlers. You can access a copy online or get it from any dietician. Toddlers need lots of calcium, protein and vitamins in their diets. Milk should be a big part of their daily intake, along with lots of fruits, vegetables and protein. Don't give into convenience foods — these have fat in them and excess sugar and corn syrup, none of which are good for your toddler. Once in a while is fine, but a toddler who lives on chicken fingers isn't getting the right amount of nutrients to support proper toddler development.
- Offer healthy snacks for toddlers, like fruit and water, instead of juice and cookies. Although juice is touted to be just as good as a piece of fruit, it lacks fiber and some vitamins. Apple juice is fine once in a while; apple slices are a better snack.
Feeding a toddler can be an adventure in itself, but remember that you'll start learning a lot about your toddler's likes and dislikes. As they get used to trying new foods, they might even surprise you by wanting to try something totally different than you'd expect!