Toddler: Feeding Guidelines
As long as foods are properly prepared, your toddler can eat a variety of foods. Do not be afraid to experiment and remember that it often takes 10-12 tries before a child may accept a new food.
- Stick to 3 meals and 2 snacks at regular times and avoid additional foods in between. Wholesome snacks are important several times a day because children’s stomachs are small and they usually do not eat enough during each meal. Choose nutrient-rich snacks similar to the meals you prepare.
- Toddlers do a good job of determining how much food they need to eat on their own. If you are worried that your child may not be eating enough, look at his food intake over a week and not over a day. A general guideline to calculate children’s caloric needs from 1 to 3 years is to multiply your child’s weight by 45 calories.
- It is recommended that whole milk and dairy products be served until the second birthday. Extra fat is necessary for proper growth and brain development during this period. Milk is also an important source of calcium and vitamin D.
- Water is a perfectly good drink to serve your toddler. You can add a small amount of juice for variety, but juice and sweetened beverages do not offer much nutrition.
- Check labels to make sure you are not giving your child unnecessary calories and sweets. As a rule, every 5 grams of sugar equals about one teaspoon. Be especially careful when purchasing juices, cereals and snack foods.
- Talk to your pediatrician before introducing high allergenic foods such as milk, peanuts, tree nuts such as pecans, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
- Watch for signs that your child is ready for finger foods such as showing interest in the foods you are eating and a good pincher grasp (can pick up small objects on his own). You should not have to help your child eat at this point. Children are usually physically ready for finger foods by 8 months old.
- In order to make the transition from pureed baby foods to table foods, gradually add more texture to purees and foods. Introduce larger lumps and pieces in purees and begin offering finger foods. You can use a little common sense and trial and error to determine what type of foods your baby is ready to eat.
- Offer one favorite food with other choices and encourage your child to try at least a bite. It is common to see a toddler stick with one food and not want anything else. While it may be upsetting, it is usually not cause for concern.
- Children 5 and under usually do better experimenting with new foods at lunch and when relaxed. If your toddler is cranky, has just come from an over stimulating play session it might not be the best time to introduce a new food. If your child has a reaction to a new food, it is better to know in the afternoon than late in the evening.
- Try describing a newly introduced vegetable or fruit in a fun way for your child. Eggplant can be a “purple people eater”. Dipping carrots in yogurt can become taking “Charlie the Carrot” for a swim.
- Let your child make a mess. This is a period of learning; allow them to explore and have some fun with their food.
- Dips can be a lot of fun for kids and can increase acceptance of certain foods. Be creative – experiment with low-fat salad dressings, yogurts, hummus and salsa. See the “Recipes” section for ideas.