A dietician answers some of the most worrying food questions for parents of toddlers.
Am I giving my child enough food?
You should offer your child 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. Ensure that you have a variety of healthy nutritious foods available at home. It is important to offer a variety of foods (not only your favourites!) to your child but remember to let them choose which of those foods they are going to explore. Some need a bit more encouragement than others!
Parents tend to offer bigger portions of food than children need. A good rule is to offer one tablespoon of food for every year of age.
Healthy snacks include those that children can eat with their hands
, so they have to be simple and appetizing. For example: fresh fruit thinly sliced or cut into small pieces, vegetable sticks, whole-grain crackers and small muffins, cheese cut into thin slices or shredded.My child hates carrots, now what?
Parents often do not know what to do when they have offered a certain food and the child rejects it. You should not be disheartened.
Other senses often also play a part in whether a food is accepted or rejected. Extreme temperatures and smell often cause rejection.
Offer the rejected food again a week after, you may be pleasantly surprised by the response. How do I avoid allergies?
Certain known allergens such as eggs, fish, citrus fruits, peanut butter etc may now be introduced gradually into your child’s diet. Do not introduce all of them at the same time , start with one , watch out for any allergic reactions
especially if you have a family history of allergies, then once you are satisfied that your child is not showing any adverse sign in response to consuming the food, you can continue introducing the next one.
What shouldn’t I do?
Don’t bribe children with food especially sweets as a reward for good behavior because:
- Sweets carry empty calories that do not offer any nutritional value for your child.
- Continuous and frequent exposure of the teeth to high sugar content for prolonged periods promotes tooth decay. If your child has had a few sweets then offer a piece of cheese as it has been shown to protect against cavities.
- It creates an illusion that sweets are more valuable than any other food, which makes them want more.
- Small children may choke on sweets, popcorn etc.
This does not mean that children should not be given the odd sweet, biscuit and cake but keep these out of sight and your child is less likely to beg you for it if they can’t see it.What should my toddler drink?
When your child is thirsty, offer some clean water and milk (full cream milk as they still need the fatty acids to support growth). Try to limit fruit juice to 120ml (½ cup) per day. Should my toddler drink milk?
This is the stage at which most parents introduce cow’s milk. Some children do not like the taste of cow’s milk because it is not the same as breast milk or even as the formula milk they may be used to. It is advisable to wean the cow’s milk into your child diet by mixing it with the milk your child is used to.
For example, for the first few days you could mix in a ¼ cup of the cow’s and fill the cup with the milk your child is used to and then go on to mixing half and half until you have completely changed to cow’s milk. Limit the daily consumption of milk to 420ml – 720ml (3 to 4 cups).
Remember: Your influence on your child will never be as strong as it is at this stage. Teach them healthy balanced eating habits
!Reference: Mahan L & Escott-Stump S. 1996 Krause’s Food Nutrition & Diet Therapy. 9th Edition.What worries you about your toddler or child’s eating?