As your child approaches the toddler age, it grows and develops at a fast pace. Many children become independent and get a stronger urge and desire when it comes to experimenting with food.
They can now control the jaw, teeth, and tongue and their eating. At one year of age, children start drinking and eating on their own and even hold the plate with one hand and the spoon with the other. However, most like to eat with their hands, which is part of motor development.
This is also a time when many parents start wondering what should toddlers eat. To answer it simply, toddlers should eat a varied diet consisting of different food groups. By varying the food as much as possible, the child gets the nutrients needed to grow.
In this article, we share what you need to know to become a more confident parent when making the food choices for your little one to ensure their optimal development and well-being.
Fruit and Vegetables
Some children love fruits and vegetables from the very first moment while other children are more hesitant about the new taste and texture. It’s normal that it takes time before children learn to like new flavors and textures, so do not give up just because the child continues to spit it out or refuses to swallow it.
Prepare fruit and vegetables, divide into smaller pieces or shape fun figures and eat with your toddler. Over time, chances increase that your child will eat a varied and colorful diet full of vitamins and minerals.
Milk and yogurt are important sources of nutrition because they contain calcium, which toddlers need to build strong bones, as well as vitamins and minerals. However, dairy products are low in iron which you must get from other foods.
Children between one and three years are recommended to drink intermediate milk which later you can switch to skim milk. If the toddler ingests too much dairy products and unnecessary amounts of milk, they may eat too little of other foods which provide the iron they need.
Protein and Fat
Protein is the building block of the body and it’s easy to understand why it is essential for a small growing person. But there is usually nothing to worry about, as protein is found in almost all foods, not just meat, eggs, and fish. Protein is also found in dairy products, bread, pasta, legumes, nuts, and even a little in vegetables and fruits.
Fat provides energy in a concentrated form. Most children ingest the required amount of fat, but not always the most important kind. There are two fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself, and that the toddler needs to absorb through food: the fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6. A good way is to serve fish 2-3 times a week and cook with rapeseed oil.
Carbohydrates are a vital source of energy, especially for growing children. Most of the carbohydrates are broken down into sugar glucose, which is used as energy in the cells. By focusing on good carbohydrate sources, the toddler not only gets energy but also other nutrition in return. Good carbohydrate sources are pasta, potatoes, bread, legumes, root vegetables, vegetables, fruits, and berries. They provide not only the much-needed energy but also vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Sweets, juices, soft drinks, and cakes, on the other hand, provide no nutrition and you should, therefore, limit that type of food. That doesn’t mean that you need to avoid sugar entirely – a small amount can definitely be included in a healthy diet.
Carbohydrates also include fiber. Fiber is found partly in whole grain products, partly in vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and berries. Fibers along with fluid help keep the digestive tract flowing and counteract constipation. Some fiber also acts as food for the good bacteria in the stomach, those that make up a large part of our immune system.
However, some children seem to be sensitive to fiber and parents have to try and find the right balance. For many, it is to switch between whole grain products and regular “white” products.
The toddler years are when your child starts developing their identity and their relationship with food. Children test boundaries and as a parent, you may need to stay patient and flexible.
Experiencing something new and repeating it is the best way for children to learn new things. This also applies to the introduction of new flavors and textures. Make sure to introduce different foods with the above-mentioned nutrients and your curious toddles will gradually learn to like it and grow strong and healthy.