Toddlers’ nutritional requirements differ from those of older children and adults. Rapidly growing and with small stomachs, toddlers require more nutrients in each mouthful of food than adults.
Here are five key points to keep in mind, developed by experts specialising in early years nutrition and development.
This variety of foods, in the correct combination, provides the body with all the nutrients (except vitamin D) needed for growth, good health and development.
Even toddlers eating nutritious diets do not get enough vitamin D. Toddlers need this vitamin to support their rapid growth and without a supplement many become deficient, particularly those in the UK who are of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin.
This will prevent dehydration and may help reduce constipation. Milk and water are the best drinks to give between meals and snacks as they do not harm teeth. Offer drinks in a beaker or cup, not a bottle.
Remember: Fruit juice and fruit smoothies are sugary drinks and like other sweet drinks can cause dental caries. If used, fruit juice should be well diluted and only be at meal times. Frequent sipping on fruit juice, even when diluted, throughout the day is harmful for teeth.
A regular meal and snack routine is best for toddlers as they do not eat well when tired or over-hungry. Snacks evenly spaced between meals will help to avoid tantrums and bad behaviour due to low blood sugar levels.
Top tip: Have a routine and offer three meals and 2 to 3 snacks each day.
Toddlers learn by copying other children and adults, so eating together helps picky toddlers to try new foods and over time to learn to like them.
Top tip: Praising toddlers when they try new foods will encourage them, but only paying attention to them when they refuse foods may increase problem eating behaviour.