finding the right balance
A growing child needs lots of different nutrients, so a varied diet is key. Healthy toddler meals will include a mix of carbohydrates such as potatoes and pasta, protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. While they're good for grown-ups, it's a good idea to avoid wholegrain foods for children under five: the fibre makes their small tummies feel full too quickly, so they won't get all the calories they need. Instead, choose a range of foods from the five essential groups:
- dairy products contain protein and calcium to build up the body
- fats and oils are essential for protecting and insulating vital organs
- meat, fish, eggs and pulses contain protein, iron and vitamin D
- bread and cereals such as pasta, rice and potatoes provide energy
- fruit and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fibre
how to make snack time healthy
Toddlers need three snacks a day to keep them going, as well as three meals. But a lot of snack foods can contain lots of sugar or salt. It's recommended that a toddler diet only includes 2g of salt a day, while sugar is bad for the teeth and can increase the risk of your child being overweight. So it's best to save the crisps and chocolate for occasional treats. Why not try vegetable sticks, a piece of fruit or toast with hummus as a snack?
making meal times fun
The sooner you introduce your child to healthy eating habits, the easier they'll pick them up. Try sharing your meals with your child so they learn that breakfast, lunch and dinner are an enjoyable and social part of the day. If your child refuses to eat a particular food on one day, don’t be afraid to try again a few weeks later. It’s often just a phase or a way of testing you. Don’t be afraid to try giving your children something a bit different, such as kiwi fruit or pineapple. Toddlers often love trying unusual shapes, colours and textures.
don’t forget healthy drinks
Try to avoid sugar-laden drinks, such as squashes and fizzy drinks: they increase the chances of tooth decay. The best drinks for toddlers are water or full-fat cow's milk instead. If your child will only drink sugary drinks, it's a good idea to dilute them with water – over time, you can gradually increase the water so they get used to the change.