Nutrition in the Toddler/Preschool Child

– compiled by Tina Connelly, RN, CPNP

Why is my toddler so Picky?

The first birthday is a time of transition for your child both physically and developmentally. They are now feeding themselves table food and have a strong, independent personality. Also toddlers grow more slowly than infants so therefore do not want or need food as much they did when they where younger. They have more exciting things on their minds!

So what do I Serve?

Now that you are serving your child table foods, you are at a key time to promote healthy eating habits and attitudes about food that can help foster a healthy lifestyle for life. Parents main influence lies in what kinds of food are served to your child. Below are some general suggestions.

* Offer milk in a cup at mealtimes (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in the range of 6-24 oz per day. Children over the age of one year should not be taking bottles anymore.

* Serve protein at every meal. Meats, eggs, yogurt, and tofu are excellent sources of sustained energy.

* Create a colorful plate of fruits and vegetables. Don’t assume that your child will not like them. Studies show that a toddler may need to see a new food up to 20 times before he will accept it. In general, toddlers prefer raw (cut up small!) fruits and veggies and love to dip them in things like yogurt or salad dressing.

* Choose healthy high protein, low sugar snacks such as pretzels, fruit, and cheese. A mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack is sufficient. Beware that too much snacking can affect your child’s appetite at mealtime.

* Offer water at snack time and not fruit juice or soda. Even 100% fruit juice contains high amounts of sugar and is not recommended for toddlers.

* Leave the sugary foods at the supermarket. Beware of sugary cereals and fruit snacks. Sugar is also hidden in foods like white bread and white pasta. Look for whole grain options instead. Become a nutrition label reader and look for foods low in sugar and high in dietary fiber.

* Keep portion sizes age appropriate. A general guide is each portion of food should be the size of your child’s closed fist (pretty small!).

* Stimulate the taste buds! Expose your child to different tastes and textures. Have fun with it! Too many parents assume that children like bland foods and miss an opportunity to expand their child’s nutritional horizons.