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Is My Toddler Eating Right?

Trying to get your toddler to eat properly can be a minefield and just as you think they are starting to become less fussy it all changes!

I can remember going to Spain and one of my children was around 2 and after seeing the huge selections of tomatoes in the first restaurant it was then all he ate for every meal the whole time we were there! Another of my children went through a phase of not eating green food!! You name it between my three at some point I have had to live through it.

However due to the rate toddlers grow and develop its important to try and encourage a balanced diet to get all the goodness, vitamins and minerals they need.

This is also a great time for them to learn about food and to have healthy eating become a habit.

So what does your toddler need to eat?

Each day toddlers need three meals and snacks made up of foods from the four main food groups, remember however that children's appetites can vary:

  • Starchy foods x 5-a-day
  • Fruit & vegetables x 5-a-day
  • Dairy foods x 3-a-day
  • Protein foods x 2-a-day*

*3 portions if child is vegetarian.

What is Starchy food?

Starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes and give your toddler with energy, B vitamins, calcium and fibre. Fortified starchy foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals, can also provide iron and, in some cases, vitamin D.

What does a portion look like?

½-1 slice of bread

1-2 rice cakes or oat cakes

3-5 tbsp breakfast cereal

1-3 tbsp mashed potato

2-4 tbsp cooked pasta/rice

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a really important part of the diet because they contain vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. If you can get your child eating a variety of fruit and veg they will be more likely to eat lots of fruits and vegetables into adulthood.

What does a portion look like?

½-2 tbsp raisins

¼-1 banana

3-8 grapes

½-2 tbsp peas

2-6 vegetable sticks

What are Dairy foods?

Dairy foods, such as cheese, yoghurt, milk and fromage frais, are a very good source of calcium, protein, fat and vitamins B2 and B12.

What does a portion look like?

1 beaker of milk (100 ml)

1 pot of yogurt (125 ml)

1 cheese triangle

1-3 tbsp cheese sauce

What are Protein foods?

Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, pulses and foods made from pulses (e.g. tofu and soya mince). Protein foods provide protein and iron. Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and a dietary source of vitamin D. Serving protein foods with another food or drink that is rich in vitamin C (e.g. fruit and vegetables) as this will help with iron absorption.

What does a portion look like?

2-3 tbsp pulses

2-4 tbsp cooked minced meat

1-2 fish fingers

2-3 tbsp baked beans

½-1 poached, boiled or fried egg

It is important to keep your toddler hydrated, if not they may feel tired and in extreme cases may become seriously ill. Water is the best thing to give as a main drink because it does not cause tooth decay, to also prevent tooth decay its is advised that all drinks (including milk) are drunk from a cup or free flowing beaker and not from a bottle.

Foods to avoid

Avoid giving the following to toddlers:

  • Salt
  • Raw eggs
  • Shark, marlin and swordfish..
  • Whole or chopped nuts should not be given to children under the age 5 because of the risk of choking.
  • Low-calorie foods
  • Sugars

During toddlerhood children can become fussy and like I said become obsessed with a food or just become very difficult over what they will and wont eat. This is very common up to age six, after which it tends to even itself out, especially if the child has a healthy home life and is exposed to a variety of foods with family demonstrating a healthy lifestyle, or generally healthy anyway as no one is perfect!

In general a child needs to be exposed to a food 5-15 times before they will try to accept it!!

So try relax give them the praise they need when they do try new things and eat well, and when they don't try not to give them the reaction they want, as if they get the hysterical parent as they haven't eaten or manage to manipulate you into making them something much fun is that!!!! and a vicious cycle begins.

Plus with summer coming (we hope) picnics are a great way to eat as they offer a variety of picky easy to try foods for children and a great opportunity for family to eat together which is proven to help children's eating habits.




A selection of information has been sourced from The British Nutrition Foundation and NHS

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