Nutrition For Toddlers - Feeding Your
Children Nutritious Foods
Toddlerhood is an exciting time of growth and development.
During this time (age 1 to 3 years), a child begins to mature in motor skills
and tries to become more independent. Many of the things a toddler learns at this
time stay with him his whole life. For this reason, it is important for him to
develop good, life-long eating habits.
Although a toddler usually gains
about 4-6 lbs. per year, this is a slower growth rate than the rapid gain that
happens during the first year of life (12 or more lbs. in one year.) This means
your child's appetite will probably be decreased compared to what it was during
the first year. He may not eat as much as you expect him to eat, and he may refuse
foods that he was eating previously. This can be troubling to parents, especially
since, as a child grows, vitamin and mineral needs gradually increase. For this
reason, recommendations of amounts and types of food to eat have been made by
nutrition experts, and following these suggestions can help to set our minds at
Another challenging toddler eating habit is their insistence on self-feeding,
even though it is difficult for them. They may not be able to handle eating utensils
well, but it is important that they be allowed to feed themselves. They are striving
for independence, and this is an important time for exploring new tastes, textures,
shapes and colors of foods. As toddlers handle their food, albeit somewhat messily,
they are processing a lot of information and, hopefully, are learning to like
a variety of nutritious foods. Of course, this will only happen if they are being
given a variety of nutritious foods to enjoy and experiment with.
us to a discussion of the feeding/teaching responsibilities of a parent. A parent
is responsible for what a child is offered to eat and when and where it is given.
The child is responsible for how much he or she eats. So a parent should provide
nutritious foods at regularly scheduled times in a pleasant, distraction-free
environment. A child should be allowed to handle, touch and even play with his
or her food-- within reason-- and then only eat what he or she wants. This may
be difficult to accept at times, but it is important to avoid control issues when
possible. This does not mean you should abdicate your responsibility and only
give a child what he or she wants to eat. You should offer a variety of nutrient-rich
foods, and take comfort in the fact that, although some foods will be offered
ten times or more before they are actually eaten; they eventually will be accepted
by your child.
So what foods should be offered? Toddlers should be offered
a variety of interesting shapes, textures and colors of food. When possible, serve
them what the rest of the family is eating. (For a specific, individualized meal
plan for your child, check out the website, www.mypyramid.gov.) When trying new
foods, give your child a mixture of familiar, well-liked foods with new foods.
If a he or she refuses the new food, try again in a few days or weeks. Try to
avoid hard-to-chew foods or other foods that may cause choking. Some risky foods
are grapes, hot dogs, link sausages, popcorn, peanut butter, hard candy, gumdrops,
corn, nuts, and raw apples or vegetables. Sometimes these foods can be modified
to lower the choking risk. For example, hot dog slices can be quartered and vegetables
can be cooked and mashed.
Portion size is important. Provide small portions
of food and let your child ask for seconds. A quick rule of thumb for portions
sizes is about 1 Tablespoon of food for every year of age. Of course, don't be
too rigid with this; let your child eat as much as is necessary for him or her
to be satisfied.
Some foods and beverages should be limited. Juices, fruit
drinks and sweetened beverages should be restricted. They can decrease a child's
appetite and keep him or her from eating more vitamin and mineral-rich foods.
Sweet, sticky foods, such as candies and gels, which stay in the mouth for longer
time periods can cause tooth decay. Low-nutrient foods such as cookies, candy
and carbonated drinks can be given in small amounts occasionally, but they should
never be given in place of a meal or take the place of nutritious foods.
are just a few suggestions for helping your child to develop good eating habits.
Toddlerhood can be challenging and sometimes frustrating for parents and toddlers,
but it can also be very enjoyable. It really is fun to watch your child discover
new foods and abilities, so try to sit back and enjoy the new experiences that
both you and your child are having. After all, meeting the challenges of parenthood
and overcoming them can be very satisfying.