The period from one year to three years is the period of rapid growth. They are learning to cope in the new environment. They are not baby anymore, they are trying new tastes,learning to walk and talk. Balanced diet is extremely important for toddlers as they are more at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies as soon as they switch from breast milk to cows milk.
Balanced diet for toddlers
The preferences and likes and dislikes of every child is different. At this stage it is important for mothers to introduce variety of food to child as they develop personal likes and dislikes which can affect their eating patterns later in life. Balanced diet is a key to healthy toddlers. Below are some essential points to remember in order to provide balanced meals to your little ones.
The caloric requirements of toddlers vary according to the height, age, sex and physical activities. Generally children require between 1000-1400 calories in a day, with three large meals and two snacks between the meals and about 6-8 drinks of 150 ml.
- Milk and dairy products
Breast feeding is essential for toddlers up to two years of age as it prevent iron deficiency in young children. In other cases Two to three servings of milk are extremely important as it contains calcium and vitamin D needed for healthy and strong bones. The toddlers requires 700 mg of calcium which is present in two glass of milk. In some countries where there is not sufficient sunlight or children in asian countries , children who are not on breast milk additional vitamin D supplements are needed to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D. Full fat milk is recommended for children under five.
In some cases children have issues with drinking milk after moving from breast and bottle to cups, it is essential to give other dairy products like yoghurts, porridge and cereals with milk and cheese to children in order to ensure sufficient calcium intake.
- Wholegrain and cereals
Toddlers need four to five toddler size servings of breads and cereals per day. Half of which should be wholegrain. Oatmeal, porridge , bread, chapatti, boiled rice, and potatoes are examples. These starch provides toddlers with energy along with B vitamins needed to toddlers. Wholegrain provides fiber and essential nutrients needed and prevent constipation which is common in toddlers but should be introduced gradually as it increases bulk in foods and toddlers sometime eat less.
- Fruits and vegetables
Aim to provide at least five portion of fruits and vegetables daily. Offer vegetables in meal times and fruits as a snack. Vegetables should be thoroughly cooked in order to avoid choking hazard. A small cup of bite sized mixed fruits can be given as snack and may look appealing and colourful to children.
Meats and high protein foods
Toddlers when switched from breast or formula milk to cows milk are more prone to iron deficiency anaemia . Iron is essential for optimal growth and brain development. For this it is advisable for mothers to give at least two servings of meat, and other proteins sources. Examples of high protein foods are
- Minced meat
- Lean cut meat
- Pulses and legumes
Foods to be used in moderation
Below are some foods which should be used in moderation or only as a treat.
- Toddlers due to slight sweet taste of breast milk are more attracted toward sugars , but eating large amount of sugars may decrease their appetite and causes tooth decay and obesity .
- High fat foods such as biscuits, cakes and bakery as they are high in calories and have little nutritional value and increases the risk of toddlers to become overweight.
- High salt foods such as crisps and processed foods should be completely avoided or should be given only in small amounts once in a while.
- Peanut allergy is one of the most common type of food allergies in toddlers. Symptoms of peanut allergy are rash and swelling around mouth, nose and lips, running nose and irritability. Try to avoid giving foods containing peanuts to toddlers.