Introducing new flavours and textures to your toddler’s meals helps to develop his preferences. This marks the beginning of your child’s relationship with food — which is why it’s important to start off with healthy eating habits.
At this stage, your child is becoming increasingly selective about which foods he is prepared to eat and when. This often leaves you wondering if you are feeding your child the correct range of foods and the correct portions.
Learning how much and which foods to feed your toddler, will ensure that your child has a balanced diet, filled with the necessary nutrients to help him grow.
Meal times can be messy. If your child is a fussy eater, this becomes especially true. Thinking of new ways to create a more favourable environment for both you and your toddler will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
You should keep in mind that you are responsible for your toddler’s diet. However, toddlers pick their food preferences and when they want to eat. This means that they know when they are hungry or when they are full.
Forcing your toddler to eat particular portions even if he undeniably declines means, he may lose his ability to gage his appetite. This could later lead to weight issues. But, this also means that you are able to influence your toddler’s feelings towards food.
Below are some suggestions on how you can help your child make a smooth transition from baby to toddler at the dinner table:
Eating at the dinner table
- Creating an environment exclusively for eating helps toddlers focus on food. Distractions such as television, scattered toys, roaming pets should be removed.
- Putting a bib large enough for your toddler and laying newspapers on the floor is a great way to help with cleaning up that will surely follow.
Move from bottle to “spill-proof” cup (optional)
- If you have already weaned your toddler from the breast, a “spill-proof” bottle is recommended. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for up to 2 years whereas the American Academy of Paediatrics (APP) says for at least one year.
Gradually introduce new food
- Start with small portions. It may take some time before toddlers welcome new foods into their diet. This requires patience and simply trying again the next time.
Do not force feed
- Remember, toddlers know when they are hungry and when they are full. This skill requires support or it may disappear—making your toddler prone to weight problems.
- If you are worried that you may not be giving your toddler an appropriate diet, talk to your doctor.
Below are some of the foods that are appropriate for your toddler from 12 to 24 months. The foods below are only recommendations. They merely provide a guide for both parents and caregivers.
- This may need to be slowly introduced along with breast milk. Low fat or fat free milk is only recommended at 24 months. Until then, fat from whole milk is safe for your toddler. Do not, however, introduce whole milk before 12 months.
- This includes sliced, canned or 100% fruit juice.
- Recommended: Three portions per day.
- One portion amounts to half or a quarter of a cup in any form (e.g. sliced). No more than 170 grams of fruit juices should be served in a day.
- This includes sliced, canned or 100% vegetable juice.
- Recommended: Three portions per day.
- One portion amounts to half or a quarter of a cup in any form (e.g. sliced).
- These include, for example, bread, pasta, rice or baby cereal
- Recommended: Six portions per day
- One portion amounts to half or a full slice of bread, half a cup of cereal or a quarter cup or half of cooked rice.
- This includes vegetable oil, low fat mayonnaise or salad dressing. Solid fats should be avoided (e.g. butter).
- Recommended: Three teaspoons (about 5 grams) per day.
- This includes food like meat, chicken, fish, cooked beans or eggs.
- Recommended: 56 grams per day.
- 28 grams amounts to, for example, 1 cooked egg or a quarter cup of cooked beans.
- Recommended: 226 grams per day.
Remember that toddlers are not the same. Some are taller or even heavier than others – they have varying growth patterns. Feedback from a medical professional will inform you about your toddler’s health.
What parents should know
Give your toddler the necessary space to learn how to use a spoon with proficiency. During mealtimes, toddlers will show signs of independence like wanting to hold a spoon and trying to feed themselves. Your toddle will try to grasp, squish and release foods as he explores their texture. You might get frustrated with plates tipping over and clumsy food spills.
Despite the chaos, you should be patient and offer him assistance without threatening or scolding. Remember, the more space you give, the more you encourage this area of development.
How to prevent toddler from choking
- While eating, toddlers should ALWAYS sit up.
- Food should not be served in chunks – they should be sliced, grated or mashed and eaten in small bites.
- Ensure food is chewed before swallowed.
- Do not slice fruit, cooked vegetables or sausage-shaped meats into coin-shaped pieces.
- Mash foods containing small ball-like pieces (e.g. baked beans) but do not serve ball-shaped pieces if they cannot be mashed (e.g. raisins).
Fruit and vegetables that are difficult to chew
- Raisins or dried fruit.
- Pips in fruits should be removed.
As your toddler continues to explore new tastes, it is important to remain mindful of the food that he is eating. He may take time before welcoming unfamiliar tastes which is why you need to be patient.
If you’re worried about the mess, find creative methods to relieve your woes. Just remember its very important that you create an environment that allows your toddler to develop healthy eating preferences and skills.