Toddlers and meal time

Most toddlers will not eat three meals a day but will generally prefer to eat 5 to 6 smaller meals.

 If you feed your toddler whole foods then you will find that they will get much more energy and be sustained for longer periods of time than if you use refined high energy foods which have very little nutritional value.

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Growth and diet in child’s second year

Growth slows down in a child’s second year. This means toddlers often have smaller appetites and need less food.

The amount eaten from day to day can change dramatically. Although this sometimes worries parents, this change is normal and doesn’t mean your child is being difficult or is unwell.

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Think fresh!

Serve as much fresh food as possible. When our babies are small we tend to stew apples, pears and other fruit, but when they no longer need to have mushy food, transition to fresh fruits.

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Weaning of the bottle

By the end of the first year, your child may be well onto the cup and off the bottle.

Introducing a cup should be done slowly. Start by giving water or juice in a cup. Try serving milk in a cup at one meal. Slowly replace the bottle with a cup at each meal.

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Nutrient-dense foods

Nutrient-dense foods that most children are willing to eat include:, Avocados, Pasta, Broccoli, Peanut butter, Brown rice and other grains, Potatoes, Cheese, Poultry, Eggs, Squash, Fish, Sweet potatoes, Kidney beans, Tofu and Yogurt.

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The Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid for young children (view pyramid) was designed by the US Dept. of Agriculture to promote healthy nutrition in children from the age of 2 – 6 years. It is meant to be a general guide to daily food choices.

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When tots start eating meat

Meat is started somewhere between 9 and 12 months of age.

Your daughter’s doctor recommended the upper age to start meats. The primary concern for starting meat is that it is a good source of iron and iron deficiency anemia is the primary nutritional deficiency in infants and children.

By age one, she should be consuming about 2 servings from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and eggs group per day. One serving would consist of about 1 ounce or 1-2 Tbsp. of any of these.

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Offer tots a nibble tray

Offer a nibble tray. Toddlers like to graze their way through a variety of foods, so why not offer them a customized smorgasbord!

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Breastfed infants and weight gain

Though they tend to have rounder more developed cheek muscles developed from sucking, breast fed infants gain weight at a slower rate than bottle fed infants especially after 6 months of age.

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Limiting liquids

If your toddler is drinking too much milk and/or juice, she may be too full to eat, so follow the typical recommendations of 16-24 ounces of milk and 4-6 ounces of juice.

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Toddler breastfeeding and formula

If your toddler is still breastfeeding then try to continue this as long as you both wish, as there are so many health benefits for both of you.

If your toddler is formula fed, he can now change to cow’s milk and this can be from a cup. He will only need 16 to 24 ounces of milk a day as he is eating foods from all of the other food groups.

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Mixing new foods with old favorites

Keep the old, while bringing in the new: It is best to introduce a new food when served with a food he already likes.

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Trying new foods

A couple of tablespoons are usually plenty to serve, especially for new foods.

Small plates and small portions are just right for small eyes and stomachs, less overwhelming. Let your child decide what to eat. Don’t force them to eat something if they don’t want it.

It’s OK to have them try a bite but let them decide how much they will eat after the first bite.

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Don’t replace food with fluids

Prevent your toddler from filling up on excessive fluids before meals. Offering sips of water or milk to quench thirst is fine. Two full sippy cups before a meal, however, may be the reason the plate goes back to the kitchen untouched.

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Sugars in drinks

Many foods and drinks have sugar added to them, so keep an eye on the label and choose sugar-free and no added sugar. For a sweet treat, pick foods that are naturally sweet, such as strawberries, honey and pineapple, rather than cakes or biscuits.

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Toddler table for 1

Create a toddler-friendly eating area for your child.

Toddlers like their own spaces and may eat more of your lovingly prepared meals at a table sized just for them. Also, be sure to accommodate with plates, cups, forks, and spoons that are just for your kid.

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Allergic causing foods and diet

Evidence suggests there’s actually no reason to wait to give your child allergy-causing foods (unless you know they are allergic) .

Until very recently it was common practice to delay giving dairy foods until 12 months, eggs until age two, and seafood and nuts till age three, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its thinking in 2008, suggesting that these foods can be introduced to young children at the same time as other foods.

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Leading by example

Children learn by watching you, so set healthy mealtime habits. Turn off the TV and let your toddler enjoy meals with the family. Remember, he is more likely to eat the foods that you are eating too!

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Binging toddlers

Toddlers like to binge on one food at a time. They may eat only fruits one day, and vegetables the next.

Since erratic eating habits are as normal as toddler mood swings, expect your child to eat well one day and eat practically nothing the next.

Toddlers from one to three years need between 1,000 and 1,300 calories a day, yet they may not eat this amount every day. Aim for a nutritionally-balanced week, not a balanced day.

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Keeping energy levels high

As well as 3 meals a day, snacks are important to keep young kids’ energy levels high throughout the day.

Get into the habit of giving them a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Try toast, rice cakes, homemade plain popcorn or chopped carrots and cucumber with plain yogurt.

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