Key nutrition basics
By around one year or just after, most babies will be eating more confidently, enjoying a range of tastes and textures and ready to eat more solids and relying less on milk.
However, whilst toddlers can usually eat more finely chopped versions of meals the rest of the family eats, there are a few important ground rules that might affect which meals she still eats separately.
Toddler nutrition – key points
•Avoid salt and sugar still. Just as with weaning, there is no need to season your child’s food with salt or to add sugar. Salt is present in many foods we eat anyway and adding salt to meals is dangerous for her system to cope. It can also develop into an unhealthy adult habit. Sweetness in fruit and the occasional treat will be more than enough and again too much now will evolve into a bad habit later on. However, you can offer honey to a child over one year old – but remember this is very sweet so it should not be offered in excess.
•Don’t give too many high fibre foods. Whilst adults should eat a healthy, balanced amount of fibre, small children can find this difficult to digest. Getting into good habits with wholemeal bread is fine but go easy on the amount of high fibre food you offer your child each day.
•Small meals often. A toddler who is crawling, cruising and toddling more will need to eat more meals, but remember that at this age they still only have little tummies. If your toddler has a larger appetite, try to encourage three or four smaller but well-balanced meals through the day rather than two main meals and lots of snacks.
•A balanced diet. Include plenty of starchy foods, lots of fruit and veg, some but not too much meat and fish (or eggs, beans and well cooked pulses), and a few dairy products.
•Avoiding empty calories. Because children this age can’t eat large portions, they need to be getting lots of good energy from the foods they are eating. Crisps and chocolate are fun treats as your toddler gets a little older but should only be given in strict moderation, not only because of their salt, sugar and fat content but because these will fill your child up without giving her the fuel she really needs. Instead, try to encourage pieces of fruit and things like oat or water biscuits. (Make sure you seek out savoury biscuits that do not have high levels of salt or hydrogenated fat in them).
•Variety. Even if your child is not showing much interest in your meals yet, try to offer as wide a choice of tastes through each week as you can, introducing a new flavour or texture every week or so to see if it can be added to your meal repertoire.
•Make the most of now. You may find that your child at this age eats lots of different things but as she approaches two or three she begins to go off some foods. Make sure mealtimes are as relaxed and happy as possible by being encouraging but never forceful with the food your child is eating; be a good role model and eat a variety of foods yourself; and when possible make sure the family’s mealtimes are held altogether so that your toddler can begin to appreciate the social side to eating.
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