Feeding your Toddler
Moving from milk to solid foods is your next step. You want to give your toddler a varied diet of healthly foods, not eating the same food all the time, enjoying the same healthy foods that the whole family eats at mealtimes – Don’t you? Sounds idyllic!
However, for many parents, mealtimes are stressful. Does your child decide what to eat? Does your toddler reject foods, or is picky about the food they want to eat, or constantly grazes throughout the day, eating the same foods? Do you know if this is normal, or should your child only have three meals a day? Are you concerned that eating very little at mealtimes will affect your child’s growth and development, so you’ve started to cook separate meals to give to your child. Remember what your child eats and drinks impacts on their long term health.
Dr Kirsty on feeding Toddlers
It can be so frustrating and stressful, and nobody actually takes you by the hand to show you the right way. Until now!
Let’s work together to:
- Try proven techniques for trying and accepting new, healthy foods
- Go through step-by-step strategies for reducing pressure at mealtimes
- Avoid the common pitfalls around feeding your toddler
- Be able to stop frequent grazing, cook separate meals and stressful mealtimes
- Help your toddler get all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive to become happy and healthy eaters
Depending on the level of support you would like we offer a range of support and nutrition tips including:
- Mastering Fussy Eating Live Webinar Workshops
- Toddler Feeding & Picky Eating Instant Access Online Course
- Mastering Fussy Eating Recorded Masterclass
- One-to-one Consultations
Book a FREE online call with Dr Kirsty to have a chat about the best type of support for your toddler
Toddlers and Picky/Fussy Eating: How to Deal with Food Refusal
As parents, we want to ensure that our children are getting a varied diet, with the right nutrition from the main food groups to support their growth and development.
However, when it comes to feeding your toddler, it is essential to understand that picky eating is a normal part of toddler development. Toddlers are learning to assert their independence, and food refusal can be a way for them to do so. Additionally, toddlers have a smaller appetite and may have a more sensitive taste and texture preference than adults. Picky eating is not necessarily a reflection of your parenting or your child’s behaviour.
So, how can you deal with food refusal in toddlers? The NHS and key research suggests several strategies, including:
Keep offering a variety of foods. Even if your child refuses a particular food, continue to offer it regularly. It can take multiple attempts before a child decides to try something new. If they aren’t exposed to new foods they won’t be able to learn to accept them.
Be patient and positive. Avoid pressuring your child to eat or using food as a reward or punishment. Instead, offer positive reinforcement when your child tries something new or eats well.
Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. Let your child help choose and prepare meals. This involvement can make them more interested in trying new foods.
Make mealtimes enjoyable. Create a relaxed and pleasant environment during mealtimes. Avoid distractions such as screens and encourage family conversation.
Offer a balance of foods from the four main food groups. Ensure that your child is getting a balanced diet by offering a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein sources. If your child refuses certain foods, try offering them in different ways, such as cooked or raw.
It is important to remember that food refusal is not always about the food itself. Toddlers may refuse to eat for several reasons, such as teething, unwell or tired. Toddler’s appetites vary daily so they eat more on some days than others, be reassured they will eat what they need and trust in their ability to self regulate their own appetite. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits or your child’s growth, talk to your GP or health visitor or get in touch for a one to one.
Dealing with picky eating and food refusal in toddlers can be a challenge, but it is a normal part of development. By following the strategies above, you can help your child develop good eating habits and a positive relationship with food. Remember to be patient, positive, and involve your child in the process. With time and persistence, your toddler may surprise you by trying and enjoying new foods.
A Range of Essential Nutrients for Toddlers
Consuming a variety of food from each of the 5 food groups helps provide a wide range of essential nutrients for toddlers. Even though children may initially have limited food preferences, it’s important to encourage them to try small portions of new foods to broaden their taste and texture preferences. This can help them develop a liking for different types of produce new food, and encourage healthy eating as they grow older.
Discover Dr Kirsty's Mini Chef Baking Box
Introduce a joyous and educational experience to your kitchen with our Mini Chef box. This delightful baking box comes with 6 fun, easy-to-follow recipes for you and your children to enjoy, including cheesy carrot crackers, banana chocolate ice cream, hummus & apple ring snacks, pancakes, and blueberry flapjacks.
The kit also includes 6 muffin cases, 2 large cutters, 2 small cutters perfect for fruits, vegetables, cheese and more, along with kid-sized, dishwasher-safe utensils like a rolling pin, whisk, and wooden spoon.
Not only does this offer a memorable culinary adventure, but it also helps your child learn essential skills like following recipes, measuring ingredients, whisking, and rolling, all while familiarizing them with different units of measurement. As your child’s culinary skills grow, the Mini Chef box grows with them, offering a reusable and adaptable learning platform. Please note, the actual box may vary slightly from the picture.
How to increase more Fruits and Vegetables into Your Toddler's Diet
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibre, making them an essential part of your toddler’s diet. Nutritionally, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried sources are often similar, frozen and canned options provide a cheaper option. Offer a range of fruit and vegetables to help them experience new flavours and textures, which can help develop their palate.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables into every meal is recommended for your child’s overall nutrition. Serving a colourful array of fruit and vegetables can make mealtime more enjoyable for your child and help them get the essential nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. However, when it comes to dried fruits, such as raisins, it’s best to serve them during meals instead of as a snack for toddlers. This is because dried fruits can contain high sugar content, which can increase the risk of tooth decay in young children.
Think eat the rainbow: rotate between different fruits and vegetables every day, and mix up shapes, textures, and flavours. From berries to green leafy veg, to citrus fruits, to root veggies- so many options! Make fruit and vegetables fun! Create fruit kebabs, fruit faces, smoothies, chopped veggies as pizza toppers- check out our blog recipes for ideas! Spice it up! How many ways can you cook peppers? Raw with a hummus dip, blended to make spicy pasta pepper sauce, roasted with paprika in fajitas, sautéed in a stir fry, stuffed with rice?
Raw vs. Cooked Vegetables
Let your toddler eat both raw and cooked vegetables. It’s common for some children to prefer raw vegetables over cooked vegetables, especially while a meal is being prepared. For example, raw carrots and cucumbers are good finger foods and are crunchy, healthy snacks, while broccoli and sweet potatoes can be cooked to create softer textures. Get your toddlers involved in helping make some delicious snacks like this!
Carbohydrates in Your Child's Diet
Starchy foods and carbohydrates, such as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, yams, rice, couscous, pasta, and chapattis, are important sources of energy, nutrients, and fibre for growing children. These foods provide essential fuel for their active bodies and support their overall health. Base meals and snacks around these key foods.
Wholegrain Foods for Children
White sources are usually preferred but try and mix it up with wholegrain sources, such as wholemeal bread, whole wheat bread, pasta, and brown rice, to help boost their fibre and help avoid constipation. 50/50 sources such as bread or fortified breakfast cereals are also beneficial as a lot of these have added iron and calcium, both key nutrients needed in your toddlers.
Your child will request and rely a lot on the same carbohydrate foods daily as these are often the most accepted foods for your child. Foods like chicken nuggets, fish fingers, and hot dogs are mechanically easier to eat because they’re processed. Your child doesn’t have to work as hard and chew them as much before they’re ready to be swallowed.
Carbohydrates such as bread, chips, crackers, rice cakes etc. are all starchy foods. The brain’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates and because brain development is really quite rapid during the toddler years, young children have a preference for carbohydrates.
In addition, shop-bought starchy carbohydrates are always exactly the same. No matter whether you buy it today or in two months’ time, the texture and the taste are going to be identical! It’s predictable, so your child knows what to expect and trusts these foods as safe. However keep exposing them to a wide variety of these foods to avoid them getting fed up with the few foods they prefer.
Choosing Milk and Dairy Alternatives for Your Pre-Schoolers Diet
The WHO dietary guidelines recommends breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond. If your toddler is feeding at least 3-4 times per day you don’t have to or need to introduce cows milk or any dairy alternative as a drink. From the age of 1, whole cow’s milk can be given as a main drink, as it is a reliable source of key nutrients including calcium, which is essential for bone development and toddlers teeth health.
Whole milk and full-fat dairy products also contain important nutrients like vitamin A, which supports healthy skin, eyes, and immune system. It’s recommended to provide children with a daily intake of 350ml (12oz) of milk, or 2 servings of dairy such as cheese, yoghurt, or fromage frais.
As children grow and their dietary needs change, you can consider introducing semi-skimmed milk at the age of 2, if the child is consuming a balanced diet and growing normally for their age. However, skimmed, low fat milk or 1% fat milk, or non-fat milk is not recommended for children under 5 due to insufficient fat content. Always check the labels as reduced fat products, can have an increased sugar content.
Incorporating Dairy Alternatives
If your toddler has an cow’s milk allergy or for families following a plant based diet, the NHS recommends unsweetened calcium fortified milk alternatives, such as soya, coconut, and oat drinks, to be included in a healthy and balanced diet for children starting at age 1. The plant milk should also ideally have added iodine and vitamin D, B2 and B12. Aim for higher calorie and protein versions such as barista or growing up. However, rice drinks are not recommended for toddlers and children under the age of 5 due to potentially harmful levels of arsenic.
To learn more about incorporating non-dairy options into your child’s diet, seek additional information from trusted sources or healthcare professionals or get in touch for one to one support.
Essential Nutrients: Protein and Iron for Young Children
Protein and iron are essential nutrients for the growth and development of young children. Protein foods and iron rich foods such as beans, pulses, oily fish, eggs, and meat, tofu, humus and soya mince should be included daily.
For a balanced diet, it is recommended to provide your child with at least 2 servings of vegetable-based protein, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and tofu, or 1 serving of animal-based protein, such as meat, fish, and eggs, daily.
Nuts are also a good source of protein, but it’s important to avoid giving whole nuts, including peanuts, to children under the age of 5 to prevent choking hazards. Including oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines, in your child’s diet is recommended at least once a week to help maintain their brain and heart health. Some fish fingers also have added omega 3 and 6 as well.
Meat and fish can often be rejected by toddlers as they are harder to chew and thus require more effort to eat. Chopping these foods well or using a slow cooker can make it easier, and marinating meat or fish in spice rubs can make the food taste better.
Top tips to boost your toddler's iron intake.
Iron is a crucial nutrient for maintaining a child’s health. There are two forms of iron available: haem iron found in meat and fish, and non-haem iron found in plant-based foods.
Meat and fish are excellent sources of iron that is highly bioavailable, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body. However, iron from plant-based foods has lower bioavailability and may not be as readily absorbed by the body.
For children who do not consume meat or fish, it’s important to incorporate iron-rich foods into their diet to ensure they receive enough iron. Examples of such foods include iron fortified cereal, green leafy vegetables, eggs, beans, and lentils.
A diet without meat or fish may put children at risk of iron deficiency, leading to anaemia and impacting their physical and mental growth. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to iron intake in children who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and ensure they are getting enough iron from alternative sources to support their overall health and development.
Top tips for your toddlers Fat intake
As parents, we all want our toddlers to grow up healthy and strong. One way to ensure that is by watching their fat intake. Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy and helps absorb vitamins, but too much of it can lead to health problems like obesity and heart disease.
According to the NHS guidance, children between the ages of 1 and 3 should have no more than 17g of saturated fat per day. Saturated fat is the type of fat found in foods like butter, cheese, and fatty meats. It’s important to keep an eye on the amount of saturated fat your toddler is consuming as it can increase their risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease later in life.
So, what can we do to ensure our toddlers are getting the right amount of fat? Recommendations include choosing lean cuts of meat instead of fatty ones. Choose foods that have healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters, dairy and avocado. It’s also important to limit processed and fried foods, which are often high in saturated fat.
Here are some easy ways to reduce your toddler’s saturated fat intake:
By making small changes to your toddler’s diet, you can help them establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. It’s also important to remember that toddlers have different dietary needs than adults, so it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare professional or a registered dietitian if you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition.
Remember, every little change you make can have a big impact on your toddler’s health!
Limiting the amount of added sugar your own child eats or consumes can help prevent tooth decay. Here are some recommendations to follow:
It is recommended to limit the consumption of foods high in sugar and sweetened drinks to meal times rather than as a snack.
Refrain from providing sugary foods and sweetened drinks to children before going to bed.
Sugar is a common ingredient in various types of food and drinks, including sweets, cakes, jams, yogurts, fizzy drinks, and juice drinks. Research has shown that carbonated drinks can have negative effects on tooth enamel, particularly in young children. To promote good dental health, it is recommended to provide children with water or unsweetened milk.
For infants under 12 months of age, it is recommended to avoid fruit juice or smoothies altogether. If parents choose to provide these drinks to older children, it is advised to dilute fruit juice with water (1 part juice to 10 parts water) and serve it with meals to lower the risk of tooth decay. It is recommended to wait until a child is 5 years old before giving them undiluted fruit juice or smoothies. When serving, limit to one glass (approximately 150ml) per day and ensure it is consumed with a meal.
Additionally, consuming dried fruit, including raisins, can lead to tooth decay due to their high sugar content. It is suggested that children eat these foods during meal times rather than as a standalone snack.
By following these recommendations and being mindful of added sugar intake, you can help promote good dental health and prevent tooth decay in your child. Regular dental check-ups and oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, are also important for maintaining optimal oral health. Consult with a healthcare professional or a dentist for personalised advice on your child’s oral health care.
Tips for Limiting Salt Intake in Children for Better Health
It is unnecessary to add additional salt to your child’s food as many foods naturally contain sufficient amounts of salt. Excessive salt consumption during childhood may lead to a preference for foods high in salt and potentially contribute to the development of high blood pressure in adulthood. Here are some recommendations to help you limit salt intake in your child’s diet:
By limiting salt intake in your child’s diet, you can help them develop healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure in adulthood. Encouraging the consumption of natural, whole foods and being mindful of salt in packaged foods can contribute to better overall health for give your child and entire family.
Consult with a dietitian for personalised advice on your child’s nutrition and dietary needs. I can help support you with my one to ones.