Nutrition Guide for Your Toddler
My son entered the “picky eater” stage not too long ago. I used to be the one thinking, “Why is it so difficult for your kids to eat healthy foods? Why do you let them get away with not eating it?” HA. Now that I'm in the same boat, I completely understand why mothers get frustrated and end up giving their children more desirable foods than what was initially offered. And it can be confusing and sometimes stressful to know what's okay for toddlers to eat, and in what quantities.
First of all, it's important to know that not every toddler is the same and every toddler responds to foods differently. For example, my son would love figs as a meal and he would have no reaction to them. However, if my friend gives her son more than three or four figs, he gets a slight rash around his mouth. It's nowhere near close enough to be an allergic reaction, and it doesn't cause him any pain or discomfort. But he does have a reaction to a certain amount of a certain food, where my son has no reaction at all. When my brother was younger, he would sneak strawberries from the fridge and eat an entire carton, which would cause a huge rash all over his body. If he had a few strawberries, nothing. A lot, disaster. He loves strawberries!
My point here is to make sure you pay attention to your children when they eat. Too much of anything is bad for our bodies. Everyone needs balance in nutrition and vitamins. The best way to do that for your toddler is to have options available to him or her. If you're cooking broccoli and you know your toddler WILL NOT eat it, pour some mixed veggies in the pot to assure they are still getting proper nutrition.
Know that if your toddler fills up on a drink before a meal, he or she probably won't be hungry. To avoid this, only offer water a couple hours before mealtime so they still have an appetite. This will also help your toddler establish a routine to get hungry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, instead of having a zillion snacks a day. As children get older, it'll be easier to reprimand them for their eating habits.
There are also really yummy substitutes for toddlers to curb their sweet tooth. FYI: Too much sugar can lead to toddlers’ tooth decay and long-term dental problems! Here's a list of my son's favorite alternatives to sugary foods:
- instead of sugary popsicles, freeze calcium-enriched yogurt (Greek is good too) and put a Popsicle stick in it.
- instead of chocolate, mix Nutella and mashed bananas and refrigerate it in little cups for a pudding textured snack. Delicious!
- instead of sugary candies or cookies, cut up apples, pears, tomatoes, bananas, and unsalted popcorn – the list is endless!
- instead of sandwiches, whole grain toast with peanut butter and slices of banana. Then cut it into bite-sized pieces. My son loves it!
You should never leave your toddler alone when he or she is eating. Use your best judgment to make sure the bites are small enough to prevent your toddler from choking. If your toddler does not have all of his or her teeth, do not offer hard, textured foods. Anything hard to chew and break down is a choking hazard!
Parents, don't get discouraged and give up on your kids’ nutrition. If you take the time now to tailor your toddler’s foods and make healthy options desirable options, the long-term results of your toddler’s nutrition will lead to a healthy, happy, and more successful adolescent and adult life.