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Toddler nutrition made easy

Baby still has a lot of growing to do when he reaches toddlerhood, so many parents are surprised when their tot starts eating considerably less than when he was a baby. Actually, a toddler’s growth will slow significantly from about one year and he’ll only need about 400ml of milk per 24 hours. Milk becomes less important at this stage as Baby gradually moves to solids, but it’s still important so don’t give Baby too many solids or other drinks which will ruin his appetite. When it comes to gauging whether or not Baby’s diet is meeting all of his nutritional needs, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind:

·         Eating preferences – many toddlers prefer small meals more frequently instead of three big meals a day. You can also allow your tot to simply ‘graze’ throughout the day and help himself to the healthy snacks you leave out for him, like fruit, vegetables, rice cakes, and leftover healthy meals. When your tot is two years old you can also give him avocado and unsalted popcorn.

·         Sweet and savoury treats – these have no place in the diet of a baby under three years old. Baby isn’t born with a sweet tooth and these treats simply spoil his appetite for healthy food and his body’s ability to choose the tastes and textures he needs most. Of course, it’s up to you to set a good example!

·         Family growth patterns – this is important when it comes to evaluating weight gain; if Mom or Dad has a small build, it’s quite possible that Baby will too. Growth spurts also tend to follow family trends too.

·         General health and energy levels – these are good indications of whether or not nutrition is good enough. Tots often have a six weeks cycle of enjoying certain foods and then dropping some, keeping others, and adding new foods. Don’t worry about making Baby’s meals balanced; his body will automatically crave what it needs most at the time.

·         Allergies – excess mucus, skin rashes, constipation, and allergies are indicators that you need to make some changes to Baby’s diet. It’s best to reduce or avoid common allergenic foods such as dairy and grain products, sugary treats, and highly processed foods.

·         Fruit and vegetables – tots usually enjoy either fruit or vegetables, but not both. This isn’t really a problem because they both have similar nutritional value. Most tots prefer fruits, although you should remember that vegetables like squashes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin, and avocado are actually part of the fruit kingdom. It’s a good idea to give your tot fruit for breakfast as it’s got a high water content which cleanses the body’s cleansing cycle. If your tot rejects these healthy food options, try cutting out all unhealthy processed or fast foods for a week – you’ll be surprised at how your tot’s appetite for healthy food suddenly returns! It can help to leave fruit available and let your tot serve himself.

·         Illnessoften an ill child loses his appetite and doesn’t eat well. If this resolves quite soon it isn’t really problem, as long as your tot still gets lots of liquids. If your tot is constantly ill or fails to thrive and is behind on his milestones and energy levels, take him to be evaluated and get advice about supplementation and immune strengthening.

Mealtime tips

These should help to make meals fuss-free.

·         Let your tot eat breakfast at nine or ten if he prefers – breakfast doesn’t have to be eaten first thing in the morning

·         Be unconventional – let your tot have soup for breakfast!

·         Don’t force feed

·         Don’t give your tot treats just to get him to eat something

·         Remember that tots who eat well at day care often won’t eat much at home; if day care provides healthy meals and your little one is thriving there’s nothing to worry about

·         Start giving a wider range of foods when your little one is one year old, but keep meals simple

·         Entice picky eaters by threading cubes of fruit or vegetables onto a kebab stick – just watch for choking!

·         Give your tot firm but still soft finger foods and let him feed himself

·         Don’t think that you have to give Baby meat; he can get all of the necessary nutrients from fruit and vegetables

·         Remember that milk still forms an important part of a tot’s diet – especially as a source of protein, although you can add a tablespoon of ground blanched almonds to your little one’s food once a week too

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