Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
The start of a new year is a good time to consider establishing healthy feeding habits for the year ahead. Toddlers’ nutritional requirements differ greatly from those of older children and adults. Rapidly growing and with small stomachs, toddlers require more nutrients in each mouthful of food.
To help you get your child’s year off to a healthy start, the Infant & Toddler Forum have put together five tips for you to keep in mind when feeding your toddler in 2021.
- Combine foods from all five food groups to make sure you get the balance of nutrients your toddler needs
This variety of foods, in the correct combination, provides the body with all the nutrients (except Vitamin D) needed for growth, good health and development. Use our portion size ranges as a guide on how much to offer toddlers, then allow them to eat to their appetite.
Here is a quick reminder of the five food groups:
|Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods||
|Fruit and vegetables||
|Milk, cheese, yoghurt and dairy foods||
|Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and pulses||
|Oils, butter and fat spreads||
|Our advice on sugary foods and packet snacks|
- Give your toddler 10 micrograms of Vitamin D in a supplement every day
Even toddlers eating nutritious diets do not get enough Vitamin D which is essential for normal bone growth and development. Without a supplement, many toddlers become deficient, particularly those in the UK who are of Asian, African and Middle Eastern ethnic origin. Read our guidance and tips on preventing Vitamin D deficiency and its health consequences.
- It is important to keep your toddler well hydrated
Offering toddlers six to eight drinks per day will prevent dehydration and may help reduce constipation. Milk and water are the best drinks to give between meals and snacks as they do not harm teeth. Fruit juices and fruit smoothies are higher sugar drinks and like other sweet drinks can cause tooth decay. If given, fruit juices should be well diluted and only be at meal times. Offer your toddler drinks in a beaker/cup rather than a bottle.
- Develop a daily routine of meals and snacks based around your toddler’s sleeping pattern
A regular meal and snack routine is best for toddlers to maintain energy levels. Toddlers often do not eat well when tired or over-hungry. Offer three meals and two to three snacks each day. Snacks evenly spaced between meals will help to avoid tantrums and bad behaviour caused by low blood sugar levels.
- Eating in social groups may help picky toddlers to try new foods
Toddlers learn by copying other children and adults, so eating together may encourage them to try new foods, improving acceptance over time. Praising toddlers when they try new foods will encourage them, but only paying attention to them when they refuse foods may increase problem eating behaviour.
If you found these tips helpful, you may also benefit from using our toddler food tracker, called Tot It Up, to check that your 1-4 year old is getting a good balance of foods and activity. Register now for free!