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A guide to nutrition for toddlers

Although they’re growing quickly, toddlers’ tummies fill up quickly, so their diets need to be packed with nutrients. They need a good supply of calcium and iron, and their foods shouldn’t be too high in fibre or too low in fat.

Start the day right

A good breakfast is a must for your busy toddler and should include foods from the following groups:

  • Protein: Eggs, nuts, cheese and dairy.
  • Complex carbohydrates: Cereal or bread.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Fruits or vegetables which can be used in savoury dishes.
  • Calcium is essential for the development of bones and teeth and children should have at least one calcium-rich meal per day.
  • Eggs are full of nutrients, especially yolks which contain fats, proteins and folic acid and are a good source of iron.
  • Iron can be found in fortified cereals and wholemeal bread. Be careful when selecting cereals as many of those targeted at children are high in sugar. Wholegrain cereals and oats are better choices.

A typical day

As a rough guide your toddler should be having the following each day:

  • 3–4 servings of carbohydrates
  • 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
  • 3 servings of milk or dairy products
  • 1 serving of animal protein or 2 servings of vegetable protein
  • All children are different and so serving sizes will vary according to the individual child.

The UK government recommends that all children between the ages of six months and five years are given vitamin supplements for the most comprehensive child nutrition alongside a balanced diet. These supplements should contain vitamins A, C and D.

Once your child reaches 12 months you can introduce cow’s milk into their diet. It contains less iron than breastmilk or formula so you should be aware of this and increase their iron intake through other sources if required.

Try to limit sugary drinks and always offer water as the first choice. If you are offering fruit juice, make sure to dilute one part juice to five parts water, as the sugar in juice can lead to tooth decay.

The battle of the veg

We all want our toddlers to be eating healthy foods and we know that getting them to eat vegetables can be one of the challenges we face with our growing, determined little children.

Vegetables can be quite bitter in taste, especially green leafy vegetables, so children are naturally drawn towards sweeter foods that they find more palatable. However with

7 tips for handling fussy eating

Food neophobia, the fear of trying something new usually occurs between the ages of two and six years old. Your child’s initial reaction to a new food may be to push it to one side without even trying it. But studies show it can take up to 20 attempts of introducing a food for a child to develop a taste for it. So persevere and be patient.

1. Get hands-on with raw veg

Encourage your child to become more familiar with the raw form of different vegetables by pointing them out in the shops and in your kitchen. If they are used to what they look like before they’re cooked, then they will be more likely to try them.

2. Grow together

If you have the opportunity, growing vegetables together is a great way to encourage your child to eat them. This activity gives them a chance to take ownership of looking after and nurturing the foods they are going to eat. to positively influence toddler nutrition.

3. Mix it up

To achieve the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day try to offer a variety of options. This will also ensure your child gets a good mix of nutrients and vitamins from the different types.

4. Chop and change.

You can try smoothies, milkshakes, fruit salads or simply cut the fruit and vegetables into interesting shapes. To prevent the risk of choking, make sure that grapes and cherry tomatoes are always cut in half and bananas are sliced lengthways rather than into discs.

5. Involve the whole family

Where possible, try to include the whole family at mealtimes. Eating together will encourage your child to try different foods as they see other people eating them during the meals.

6. Presentation is key

Make mealtimes more exciting by serving food in small bowls or ramekins, or create shapes and pictures with your child’s food. A few different shaped biscuit cutters can be your best friend here!

7. Cook together

Encourage your child to help with preparing their food. Giving them opportunities to bake and cook will not only make them more likely to eat the final creation but there are plenty of learning opportunities to be had during these activities.

Here at N Family Club, we think toddler nutrition is so important that we have built cookery into our curriculum. Our cooking and baking N Extra helps build an understanding of ingredients, tastes, textures, mathematical concepts, health choices, processes and patience. Our daily menus provide a wholesome, balanced diet and we use mealtimes as an opportunity to actively teach children about their nutrition.