Children are a precious gift, so why not give them the best start in life to help protect them in their teenage years and well into their adult life? Well you can, simply by establishing healthy food habits when they are toddlers.
Toddlers experience a period of rapid growth and development as they begin to walk and talk so it’s important to provide them with regular meals that provide foods for both energy and growth.
Between the ages of 1 and 5, children will generally partake in family meals, however, they still require nutrient dense food for growth and will only require small meals as their stomachs are not as large as an older child’s. This make snacks as important as meals in terms of providing suitable nutrition for your child.
Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia
- Encourage and support Breastfeeding
- Children and adolescents need sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally
- Growth should be checked regularly for young children
- Physical activity is important for all children and adolescents
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
- Children and Adolescents should be encouraged to:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
- Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain
- Include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
- Include milks, yoghurts, cheese and/or alternatives.
- Reduced fat milks are not suitable for young children under 2 years, because of their high energy needs, but reduced fat varieties should be encouraged for older children and adolescents
- Choose water as a drink. Alcohol is not recommended for children
- Children and Adolescents should be encouraged to:
- And care should be taken to:
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake. Low fat diets are not suitable for infants
- Choose foods low in salt
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars
- Care for your child’s food: prepare and store it safely
Here are some helpful tips to help inspire happy healthy toddlers.
Setting Early Healthy Habits are Key
- Children develop their food taste preferences at an early age and they generally stay with them for life. So choosing foods low in salt and sugar as you introduce them to foods may help children from becoming too accustomed to the taste of less nutritious salty or sugary foods
- Set a good example for your child by practicing good eating habits
- Avoid giving your child very sugary, salty or overly fatty dishes
- Allow your child to choose the foods they are going to eat from a selection eg. choose three vegetables out of five for their dinner
- Let your child choose fruits and vegetables from the supermarket, they are more likely to eat foods that they have selected themselves
- Prepare exciting meals by using different coloured foods and serving them in different shapes on the plate
- Children won’t let themselves go hungry, so don’t be too worried if they refuse meals occasionally
- Don’t force your child into eating everything on their plate, they know how much they need to eat to satisfy their hunger
- Be patient if your child refuses food, they may not be hungry or they could genuinely dislike the food, or just be exerting their independence
- Don’t offer rewards for finishing a meal – this can lead to bad habits
- Establish a mealtime routine, as children prefer their meals and snacks at regular times
- Let your child eat at their own pace
- Encourage your child to try different foods – the more food experiences they have, the more likely it is they’ll find more foods to love eating
- New foods often need to be introduced several times before your child will accept them
- Introduce new foods and flavours to your toddler gradually, and team the new food with something else that they like eg. potato mash and parsnip
How much food?
- Give your toddler small servings of food and allow them to ask for more
- Smaller and more frequent meals suit children’s smaller tummies
- Children’s appetites may vary from day to day eg. If they are tired their appetite may be less than usual
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so set your child up with a wholegrain breakfast cereals, with milk or soymilk and maybe some fresh fruit to top it off. Other good choices include:
- Wholemeal toast with smooth peanut butter or a small amount of honey with fresh fruit and a glass of milk
- Baked Beans on a wholemeal English muffin and a small glass of juice
- Porridge with stewed fruit or
- Scrambled eggs and toast
A heathy lunch box should contain:
- Wholegrain foods like breads, rice or pasta
- Fresh fruit for snacking
- Vegetables whole or as a salad
- Water, milk/soymilk or fruit juice
Other healthy snacks for lunch boxes include:
- Vegetable sticks with or without a dip such as hummus or salsa
- Cheese with wholegrain crackers
- Dried fruit
- Fruit loaf
“Sometimes or Treat Foods”
Sometimes foods are those that offer little in the way of nutrition and are often high in energy – such as lollies, chocolates, soft drinks and crisps.
It is important for children to learn from an early age that these foods should only be eaten every now and then. It is not a case of having these foods forbidden, but for children to understand where these foods fit into their overall diet. The healthy options should have priority.
– this article was kindly supplied by Weet-Bix Kids