Toddlers are at an age where they love exploring new and unfamiliar foods. The bottle has gone by the wayside and they are eager to try new dishes that you prepare. Be aware that you set the stage for your child's choices. In her book "The Toddler Bistro," author Christina Schmidt states that "Your own food preferences directly relate to those your toddler will acquire. You are creating the foundation for your toddler's eating habits."
Toddlers have the hand-eye coordination to be able to pick up small food items or small pieces of food. This assists them in practicing their new-found dexterity. Although most of it may end up on the floor, the experience your child receives will help him later in life with skills such as grasping a pencil, handling cutlery or opening containers. Although there are many processed finger foods available, fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest choices. According to the 2008 Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddler Study (FITS), young children need a minimum of 1 cup of fruit and 3/4 cup of vegetables every day. What better way to make sure they get their minimum daily requirements every day than by serving these produce selections at snack time.
Family meal selections can be geared to a toddler's requirements. Simple mashed potatoes, pasta and cooked vegetables can be easily fed to a young child. Some may need to be cut down to size into very small pieces, while others may need to be spoon-fed to the younger toddlers. Be watchful of the choke hazard of many meats, especially hot dogs -- while you may think the pieces are small enough for them to chew and swallow, take extra precaution and cut them into even smaller pieces.
Milk is still the drink of choice for toddlers. Always be sure to purchase whole milk as reduced fat or skim milk does not contain the proper amounts of nutrients for your growing child. For those picky youngsters who don't like the taste of milk, adding a little chocolate or strawberry syrup may be just the right mix for their tastes. Drinkable yogurts are also a favorite among the younger set. Beware of serving too many fruit juices as they may be advertised as healthy and wholesome but most contain high levels of sugar. Sodas and any beverages containing caffeine should be avoided completely if possible.
Minimize the amount of sweet items your child consumes. Serve simple puddings, ice cream, Jello or fresh fruit salads when necessary instead of processed candy or heavy cakes and pies. Even kid-friendly fruit snacks are sometimes mistakenly considered to be a healthy choice, but they contain little if any fruit components. .
- Kids Health: Nutrition Guide for Toddlers
- Health Link BC: Meal and Snack Ideas for Your One to Three Year Old Toddler
- Kids Health: Snacks for Toddlers
- "The Toddler Bistro: Child-Approved Recipes and Expert Nutrition Advice for the Toddler Years;" Christina Schmidt, M.S.
- "First Meals Revised: Fast, Healthy, and Fun Foods to Tempt Infants and Toddlers;" Annabel Karmel
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