Developing healthy eating habits in toddlers

  • By Ananthavalli Ananthan

Most toddlers, principally after their first birthday, begin self-feeding independently. This is the perfect time to familiarize your child with new nutriments. Toddlers often are fussy eaters. Due to their rigid preferences, new foodstuffs are not readily accepted by them. However, scientists suggest that this is age where actual eating habit develops. Parents must therefore realize that it is very crucial to inculcate a positive attraction in your child towards healthy and balanced diet to support proper growth and development. Well, achieving this goal is really challenging. You will have to work hard on creating smart ideas that would make your child choose the right meal for himself. Completing the first year of life, toddlers show comparatively slower growth rate. So, the priority is to offer a balanced diet incorporating nutritional ingredients to your toddler that make up the required calorie content and give equal importance to the way he likes his food.

Based on their age, weight, and physical activity, toddlers require 1000-1400 calories/day.

Following foods are essential to be a part of your toddler’s daily diet.

Milk is an essential component of your toddler’s diet. A glass of milk 2-3 times daily is a recommended advice. If he doesn’t like milk, you can replace it with cheddar cheese, yoghurt, curd or fruit salad in milk depending on your child’s preference.

Fruits are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole fruits should be consumed along with skin, rather than peeling out the skin and are more preferable than fruit juices. If your toddler picks fruit juices, provide him without adding sweeteners to stay away from sweet tooth. Avoid canned fruit juice since they contain added sugars and preservatives.

Vegetables must form one part of daily meals. While they increase the fiber content and improve bowel movements, vegetables also offer considerable amounts of vitamins and minerals essential for healthy growth and development. Vegetables should be cooked and mashed well to avoid choking while eating. However, overcooking is not recommended as it can lead to loss of nutrients.

Whole grains can be given in the form of steamed rice, chapatti, or breads (made of whole wheat). Unpolished grains are healthier than polished one.

Protein is a vital component for toddler’s growth and milestones. Proteins can be given in the form of eggs, pulses or grams, peanut butter, legumes (chickpeas, black beans), meat and fish, sprouted legumes.

Tips to engage your toddler to eat healthy

  1. Make the food more presentable to your child. Toddlers are often interested in the presentation of the food than its taste. Give the healthy food in a way the child likes to eat so that he consumes it in a good quantity.
  2. Always try to arrange family lunch or dinner. Toddlers imitate their parents. Shared mealtimes would make your child confident to eat the course along with creating a joyous environment.
  3. Ideal diet chart for a day would include three meals each separated by a snack given in small portions. Maintain a specific time frame between each feed.
  4. Fresh fruits can form an excellent part of snack time.
  5. You can make variations in the course every day to avoid repetitions and to stick your child to healthy diet.
  6. Before shifting to any new feed, give your child some time to adapt to the existing meals.
  7. Do not force your child to eat or complete the meal if he refuses to eat or feels filled. Quantity doesn’t matter but quality matters. Don’t fret if your child eats less. If he is going well in his milestones, you need not worry.
  8. Although chocolates and junk foods should be limited, just ignore if your child eats them once in a blue moon.
  9. Never reward your toddler with a sweet for eating the meal.
  10. Eggs and shellfish should be cooked fully to delete food poisoning.
  11. Tea, coffee, should not be given for toddlers as they reduce iron absorption.
  12. Lastly, always encourage and appreciate your toddler for happily having a healthy diet.