We compile a short guide on what to feed your toddler, and why.
A toddler’s nutritional needs, physical anatomy and metabolism are quite different from older kids or adults. Most parents tend to feed their toddlers the same food that is cooked for themselves, but in smaller portions. However, your toddler should consume less salt, sugar, spices or oil as compared to you. In fact, it is better to cook separate meals for your child.
Healthy food for kids comprises all the major food groups, but in smaller portions. Ideally, your child should have 3 larger meals a day, with nutritious snacks in between. But not all children need snacks, because their metabolism may not be as active as other toddlers’. The paediatrician can draw up a diet chart and also check your concerns about your child’s nutritional needs.
What healthy food for kids comprises
* Food sources with DHA: Docosahexaenoic Acid is an essential Omega 3 fatty acid that is essential for brain development. Your child’s brain development is rapid during the 2- to 6-year-old phase of their lives. During this time, they must consume essential fatty and amino acids via their diet, and the best way to ensure that they get their dose of DHA is to give them nutritional milk powder fortified with it.
* Milk and milk products: Your child is still growing into their body, and they need the right food to help their bones and muscles grow strong. They need to consume milk and milk products to get their daily dose of calcium, good fats, vitamins and protein.
* Seasonal fruit and vegetables: Fruit and vegetables provide most of the essential nutrients that your toddler needs for good physical and mental development. If your child is a picky eater, you can add pureed vegetables to their food, or make fruit-based smoothies and milkshakes (use honey instead of white sugar) for them. Encourage them to eat raw fruit and vegetables such as cut fruit, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, etc.
* Protein and carbs: The ages of 2 to 6 years are crucial ones in your child’s development. They require a healthy amount of protein and carbohydrates every day. Protein is obtained from sources like milk, milk products, chicken, oily fish, eggs and some forms of red meat (restrict your child’s intake of red meat to once in two weeks), while carbohydrates are found in wheat, brown bread, grains like quinoa and bajra, green vegetables, etc.
* Good fats: Good fats are essential for healthy blood sugar levels, to lower bad cholesterol and to maintain good heart health. Ditch food rich in trans fats (junk food, mostly), and encourage the consumption of boiled eggs, oily fish and small portions of sweet fruit like mango and grapes.