Developing good eating habits in toddlers is important since it lays the basis of forming long term healthy habits. Right nutrition is important for achieving optimal growth and development. Here are few guidelines to help you:
1. Go easy on fats and opt for healthy oils:
Fat is essential nutrient for your growing child as it provides essential fatty acids for his growing brain and body and energy to fuel his high level of activity. Use healthy oils, e.g. Soybean, canola and olive oil in your cooking but keep the quantity small for the whole family. Offer him 1 to 2 servings a week of DHA rich foods e.g. salmon, tuna and mackerel.
2. Reap the benefits of fruits and vegetables:
Children learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables at young age. Use this time wisely to cultivate in your child a love for nature’s source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Serve a variety to maximize nutritional intake. Choose brightly colored red, yellow, orange and dark ones most of the time.
3. Encourage whole grains.
Whole grains are intact and not processed. They contain fiber and other essential nutrients. E.g. of whole grain foods: Whole wheat chapatti, whole grain bread, brown rice, oats etc. Introduce whole grains gradually in your child’s diet. Start with ½ to1 serving/ day. e.g. 1 serving: 1 slices of whole wheat bread or ½ cup of cooked oats. Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
4. Choose healthier drinks:
Milk and water remains the healthiest drink for your toddler. They need around 500 ml of milk a day. Clean, boiled and cool water makes the best thirst quenchers. According to US Institute of Medicine, toddlers need about 1.3 lt of fluid a day.
Soft drinks, cordials and juice drinks are best avoided as:
- They are high in sugar and calories, but contain very little vitamin and minerals
- They can cause tooth decay and if consumed in excess can may your kid overweight.
5. Limit salt and sugar intakes in your toddlers diet.
A high sodium diet may increase the risk of high blood pressure. Too much sugary foods and drinks in the diet may lead to: overweight, which is a risk factor for chronic diseases and dental carries.
Avoid the salt habit in your child by:
- Minimizing the use of salt and sauces in your child’s food
- Encouraging unsalted or lightly salted snacks
- Going fresh and limiting intake of processed foods (e.g. canned foods)
Stop your child from developing a sweet tooth by:
- Choosing plain water and milk instead of sweetened drinks
- Offer fresh fruits as snacks rather than sweet desserts
- Limiting intake of jams, chocolates, candies and ice-cream
- Not offering sweets and lollies as rewards for good behaviour