Feeding your Toddler
Nutrition provides the foundation of your child's physical and mental growth and wellbeing. Studies show that positive eating patterns are not only associated with overall health but better self esteem and fewer emotional problems for children.
Preferences for tastes are learned. And whilst we are predisposed to like certain tastes like sweetness, you can train your child's taste buds to adapt to sour, bitter and savoury flavours. It takes 10 - 15 tastes of a food to get used to it, so perseverance is key. Luckily, until around 2 years of age your child is like a sponge when it comes to flavours - this is your window of opportunity to prevent fussy eating later in life.
Our Top 3 Tips are:
Eat as a family when possible: set an example and they will follow - it becomes the norm to eat different foods
Makes snacks nutritious not convenient: don't fill them up on cakes, biscuits, jam sandwiches. We know we can get them to eat sweet stuff. It's the savoury we need to work on. Go for hummus and oatcakes, celery and cream cheese or toast and Marmite
Don't insist they finish their plates - you may have cooked it with love and care, but if they don't want it then don't force the issue. Mealtimes shouldn't be a venue for battles
What to offer them:
Sour, bitter, savoury tastes - train those taste buds!
Go go for "whole foods" - these are minimally processed foods, so you get more nutrients for your money, and they get more nutrients to fuel their growth and development
Think about the "goodness" of foods - a custard doughnut has the same calories as a mashed banana on brown bread sandwich. Guess which one has more nutrients though
Variety, variety, variety - the wider the range of foods, the more they will like different flavours and the wider the range of health promoting nutrients
Eat a Rainbow - the more natural colours on the plate, the higher the number of different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you child can eat
Ensure iron rich food sources at every meal (meat, fish, dark meat of poultry, dried fruit, green leafy veg, spinach, watercress, lentils and beans).
Avoid adding salt and sugar to any meals
Go for 50% veg and fruit, 25% protein (can be a mixture of meat, fish, poultry, chickpeas, beans, cheese) and 25% slow release energy carbohydrates (brown rice, brown pasta or noodles, sweet potato etc) on their plates each mealtime
It's hard when you've prepared a meal to see a strop from your toddler taking over but ...
Remain Calm at all times! (We know it's not that easy all of the time, but don't let them see what winds you up)
Ignore the bad behaviours, praise the good but don't offer them rewards to finish their meal (however tempting it may be!)
Leave a meal out for a maximum of 30 minutes then take away without comment if they still aren't eating it
Could they be going down with an infection? Is there nose blocked up? Have they had a quiet day with little exercise? All of these will decrease their appetite
If they reject a food remember that you will need to keep persevering in order to adapt their taste buds - but consider if the texture may be the problem rather than the food itself. Try raw carrots instead of cooked ones, meatballs instead of sliced meat, baked sweet potato fries rather than mash
"Neophobia" or fear of foods is irrational but roll with it - they should grow out of it by 4 years old
Getting your Toddler to eat a wide range of foods is a marathon not a sprint - treat it as such a don't stress it
Don't forget their hydration - full fat milk (from 12 months old) or water is ideal
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