Feeding toddlers is a challenge for parents. As these tiny tots are growing, they need a good amount of nutritional intake to sustain their physical and mental development. However, increasingly independent, these fussy eaters are more prone to tantrums and yet to learn eating habits. Ever-changing preferences for food and dissimilar eating pattern make matters more complicated. You have to be creative and devise multiple ways to inculcate a good and healthy eating habit in your toddler.
How is Feeding Toddlers Different From Feeding Babies?
Feeding a toddler differs drastically from feeding a baby. With a differential growth trajectory, the feeding needs changes considerably. Compared to a baby, the growth slows down and this reduces the appetite. Toddlers trying to assert their independence also turn fussy eaters. Growing physical and mental activities demand more vitamins, minerals, and nutritional needs that breastfeeding is unable to fulfill.
What Are Things To Remember While Feeding Toddlers?
- A toddler is different from both an infant and an adult.
- Toddlers have different nutritional needs.
- Each toddler has different food choices.
- Explicit variation in eating habits visible every day.
- Toddlers are finicky eaters.
- They are keen to assert their growing independence.
- Toddlers long for unhealthy kid foods.
- Certain foods may lead to allergy or choking in your child.
- Focus on inculcating healthy dietary habits.
- They don’t eat three meals like an adult and their eating time varies.
- Toddlers refuse to eat new foods and may demand same food every day.
- Learning about taste, smell and texture, they are yet to be good diners.
How Many Calories Does a Toddler Need?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a daily intake of 40 calories for every inch of height. This translates to about 1,300 calories for a toddler with a height of 32 inches. Considering this, you should strive to keep the daily calorie supply to your child between 1,100 and 1,400 calories at this stage of life. He needs at least 1/2 ounce of protein in every meal.
What Should A Toddler Eat?
- Starchy carbohydrates
- Low-sugar foods
- Mixture of white and whole grains
- Iron and protein rich foods
- Dairy products
- Fresh salads
How Much Should A Toddler Eat?
While feeding toddlers, you should include a rough equivalent of the following amounts of food in his daily diet.
- Grain: 3 ounces in 4 to 5 servings
- Fruit: 1 cup spread over 4 to 5 servings
- Vegetables: 1 cup spread over 4 to 5 servings
- Milk: 2 cups
- Yogurt: ½ cup
- Cheese: ½ to 1 ounce
- Egg: Not more than 1
- Beans/peas: 2 to 4 tablespoon
- Oil/butter: 1 teaspoon
- Cereal: ¾ to 1 cup
- Meat: Lean meat maximum 1 or 2 ounces
What Type of Food To Avoid?
- Fruit juice should not exceed ¼ cup for a child below 6 years
- Ready-made foods and drinks
- Sugary foods, such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, sweets, candies
- Foods high in fat
- Foods without good nutritional value
- Salty and crispy foods
- Foods that may cause choking in kids
- Raw or partially cooked and packed foods
- Whole nuts, sweeteners, sugary drinks
- Tea and coffee and caffeine foods
- Oily and sticky food
When Should A Toddler Eat?
There is no time-bound schedule to feed a toddler. His stomach is small, and he may seek food whenever he is hungry. Ensure your child has at least three meals and three snacks daily. He may not eat the equal amount of food every time. It is a good idea to divide his meals into smaller ones and provide the necessary calorie and nutritional intake.
However, you should gradually curb the habit of seeking food anytime and put in place a schedule. Research says toddlers eat well when they have a fixed meal or snack time.
What Should A Toddler Drink?
While feeding toddlers, try to include daily intake of 2 cups of milk and ½ cup of yogurt. Water is the most preferred drink at this age. However, fruit juice is of no real help for a toddler. Fruit is a better option. If you are giving juice to your child, limit it to ¼ cup daily. Avoid sugary drinks, soda, caffeine, tea, coffee, and processed beverages in the toddler diet.
How and Where To Serve Food To A Toddler?
Toddlers are learning how to eat and often mess up with food. Encourage them to master self-feeding skills and eat table foods. Bring them a toddler dining chair to teach dining habits without worrying about safety problems. Ensure that there is no disturbance to a toddler while eating. He should remain focused on food.
Should I Give Vitamin Supplements to a Toddler?
Usually, toddlers do not need any vitamin supplement. It is better to feed a toddler a variety of colorful foods to meet their daily nutritional requirement and avoid supplements. However, you can resort to supplements while feeding toddlers when advised by the doctor.
How To Feed Toddlers Safely?
- Supervise your child while eating.
- Avoid nuts, seeds, whole fruits, hard candy, or crispy foods that may cause choking.
- Shun raw vegetables or unwashed foods, as they may have bacteria strains.
- Ensure a toddler does not run or play with food in his mouth.
- Wash hands of your child before eating.
- Avoid serving hot or too cold food.
- Keep an eye for any symptoms of food allergy.
How To Fix Dining Responsibilities While Feeding Toddlers?
- The child should have freedom to eat. He must be allowed to eat what he likes from the platter and how much. Stay clear of interfering.
- Never let your child fix what to be offered. As a parent, you must not shed your responsibility in choosing the healthy food to be served. Also, select the place of eating. Don’t allow your child to force his choice.
How To Feed A Fussy-Eater Toddler?
- Don’t give up thinking your child is a fussy eater. Try new things and innovative ways to mend his dining habits.
- Serve small portions and in small servings. Add more only after the child eats what is offered.
- Have a colorful and attractive combination of foods in various shapes and sizes.
- Use special toddler feeding utensils while serving food.
- Allow time to your child to eat. Keep a reasonable gap between two meals or snacks.
- Encourage the child to try all types of food.
- While feeding toddlers, introduce new foods gradually. Don’t do any special efforts to advertise new foods. Just serve them and ask the child to try eating the same.
- Don’t force a toddler to eat a food.
- Avoid compelling them to eat a certain amount.
- Do not offer sugary food or drinks to motivate a child to eat more.
- Clap or admire your child when he is trying a new food.
- Increase the nutritional component in snacks when the child is not eating meals.
- Present yourself as a good role model for dining habits. Let your child learn from and follow you.
- Offer balanced meals and snacks and try to create a predictable dining routine.
- Avoid feeding in front of TV or while playing.
- Eat with your child to let him learn from you. Family dinner is a great idea.
- Don’t avoid fun foods completely, but try to limit the same to healthy habits.
- Take your child along while buying fruit or veggies.
- Include a variety of foods in solids, soups and in various colors, shape, and textures.
- Avoid making food a reward or punishment.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com