Healthy Eating for Toddlers.
Toddlerhood is a time when children learn about new foods and lifelong eating habits are established. To help children grow up to be healthy adults, it is important to teach them healthy eating habits as early as possible. Growth and appetite your child’s growth will be rapid during the first year of life. This growth will slow down in the second year. This means their food intake is likely to slow down too.
Toddlers are also starting to show their independence and food is one of the only things they have control over. So it is not surprising that they like to say “no” to foods and make their own choices.. As a parent, your responsibility is to make sure you provide appropriate foods at the right times and the rest is up to your child.
Toddlers have good signals for hunger and fullness and they should decide “how much” and “whether” they eat at all. Trust your child’s appetite and try not to fuss about the amount of food your child eats. The more you fuss about the amount of food eaten, the more your child will react and it will turn mealtimes into an unpleasant experience for everyone. If you are worried your child is not eating enough food, eating too much food or you are concerned about their growth, contact your Maternal Child Health Nurse, General Practitioner or Dietitian
Healthy eating habits to encourage you can encourage your toddler to eat well by being a good role model and eating healthy, regular meals yourself. Your child will learn good eating habits by watching you.
Toddlers need to eat regularly as they have small tummies. Develop a regular mealtime routine consisting of 3 meals and a snack between each meal. Offer small serves and your child will ask for more if they are still hungry. Remember your child is in charge of how much they eat. Do not force them to eat if they are not hungry.
Set aside 20-30 minutes for main meals and 10-20 minutes for snacks. Avoid any distractions like television, toys, or games during meal times.
Refusing to try new foods is common. Food may need to be offered 10 times or more before it becomes familiar and happily accepted. Offer a variety of foods. Food refusal may be caused by boredom. Try offering different nutritious foods or change the texture, appearance, or taste of a certain food.
You decide what food is on offer. Allow your child to have some choices but keep them simple. Avoid giving popcorn, hard fruits, hard vegetables in chunks, or whole nuts to children less than 3 years of age due to the choking risk.
Avoid foods high in sugar such as sweet biscuits, soft drinks, sweets, and juices.
Dietitian Anushree Acharya