Weaning is over, what shall I feed my toddler?
After your baby turns one, the rule of thumb is that he or she can eat the same as the rest of the family. With a few exceptions, of course, because every rule must have at least one exception.
Salt: toddlers’ diets have a much lower salt limit (2g/day) that adult diets (6g/day). It is quite easy to get to 2g of salt, even for a 2 year old, as half a cheese sandwich contains 1g of salt and a quarter of a pizza margarita can contain as much as 2g!
Sugar: toddlers should consume sugar as sparingly as possible. Not just because it can cause tooth decay but also because it can contribute to children developing a sweet tooth from an early age. Also, sugary foods tend to be very low in nutrients and therefore add little more than empty calories to their diet.
The rainbow diet:
One of the most important things after weaning is to ensure your toddler’s diet is as varied and contains as many different fruits and vegetables as possible – ever heard of the rainbow diet? Now is a good time to start your little one on it, to ensure he or she gets plenty of nutrients. Also, increasing variety helps your toddlers get used to different flavours and increases food acceptance, which is nothing but a good thing.
What nutrients does my toddler need to support growth and development?
Sufficient protein is fundamental for growing children as the amino-acids in protein form the building blocks of the majority of body tissues: from eyes to muscles. But how much is enough? Three portions a day should be enough, so ensure each meal contains a palm-size portion of fish, chicken or meat, a good handful of beans, nuts or seeds, a cup of yogurt or a couple of cheese slices, a cup of quinoa, some seeds, a bit of avocado or an egg.
Iron is essential for growth and to support immunity. Iron deficiency can lead to decreased learning ability and affect brain development. Having one or two portions of red meat a week or, if vegetarian, eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses should provide sufficient iron for your toddler. If you are unsure your toddler is having enough iron, talk to your GP or nutrition professional but do not buy am iron supplement without a professional recommendation because excessive amounts of iron can be toxic and increase oxidation.
Calories do matter!
Toddlers require between 700Kcal/day and 1,200Kcal/day depending on age and gender as reported by the British Nutrition Foundation. In comparison, the average woman needs approximately 2,000Kcal/day – surprising how many calories a little person needs, right? So, when feeding your toddler remember that each meal has to be energy and nutrient dense as their needs are high but their tummies are still quite small. Home-cooked meals with plenty of fresh vegetables, good protein and a generous helping of olive oil are best.
We always recommend that parents gently steam their baby’s meals rather than boiling or roasting/frying at high temperatures to preserve nutrients. Using the Beaba’s Babycook ® is the easiest way to ensure your baby gets the nutrients they need in every meal.
Low-fat diets for toddlers? Absolutely not!
Given meals need to be energy dense, fat has to be a significant component of your toddler’s plate. But no, any fat won’t do…let’s focus on the fats that promote growth and development like omega-3 fats from oily fish, flax and chia seeds, and mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids support brain development and eye health.
And carbs – are they good for growing kids?
Yes, definitely but not all carbs are made equal.
Carbohydrates are a great source of energy for growing children. At this stage, wholegrains including wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, oats, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, should be the main source of carbohydrates. Refined flours, white bread, white pasta and white rice should be avoided as the refining process depletes most of the nutrients in cereals. Wholegrains can regulate with blood sugar balance which in turn can help reduce mood swings and those dreaded tantrums. Wholegrains are fibre rich which helps keep young guts in check but remember that if you increase fibre, you must make sure your little one is drinking plenty of water as otherwise more fibre might make constipation worse.
And what about milk?
From 12 months onward, solid foods are the main source of energy and nutrients for children. So, don’t over-do it on breast or formula feeds as that extra milk can sabotage their appetite and leave them hungry a few hours later screaming for more milk. You know what I’m talking about if you are up at 3am feeding a desperately hungry 18 month old!
Cow’s milk can be used in cooking or as a drink (always full-fat until at least 2 years of age) if your toddler is digesting it well. If you think there are any issues with dairy digestion, please talk to your GP or nutrition practitioner about it.
If dairy is not an option, you can try dairy-free milk and yogurt alternatives but ensure they are sugar-free and fortified with calcium and B vitamins.
Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/