Toddlers can be quite challenging to feed. Some major developmental changes take place during these years, making mealtimes even more difficult.
With the little ones striving for more control and independence, they tend to put up a struggle when being fed. Also, their thus far rapid growth rate usually slows down at this point, hence the decrease in appetite.
Despite these challenges, you should keep on establishing structure and limits for them, including those for feeding them. This is the time for teaching them what would eventually become lifelong eating habits, so don’t weaken your stance and resolve in the face of their obstinacy. Besides, you also need to make sure that they get all the nutrients that their bodies require.
Introduction to Table Food
Nutrition remains a top priority during this time of transition. As you shift gears, ditching the feeding bottles and propelling them to table food and self-feeding, good nutrition should be easier to achieve with the variety of foods that are now available to them.
Nonetheless, variety also means new tastes and textures, which are things that many toddlers resist. Remember that they’re coming from a period of milk and mush; table food would probably take some getting used to.
Food Amount for Toddlers
How much food do toddlers need? It varies, depending on factors such as their activity level, size, and age. Generally, toddlers require about 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day. The following list of child nutrition facts gives you an idea of what foods are good for toddlers and how much of them should be given daily.
As expected, the lower amount in the range provided is for younger toddlers, and the higher amount applies to older toddlers. It’s all about averages, however, so don’t fret if you can’t get them to eat as much as the amount indicated. Just make sure they get a wide variety in their diet.
1. Three to five ounces of whole grains
To help you with servings, one ounce equals:
- A slice of bread
- A cup of breakfast cereal
- Half a cup of rice, pasta or cereal (cooked)
2. One to one and a half cups of vegetables
Make sure veggies are well-cooked, soft, and cut in manageable pieces to prevent choking. Here are some ideas of vegetables to serve toddlers:
- Baked root vegetable (carrot, potato, sweet potato, etc.) fries
- Roasted squash or zucchini
- Roasted broccoli or cauliflower
- Cooked greens like collards or spinach
3. One to one and a half cups of fruits
Fruits are easier to serve since they’re sweet and eaten raw. Use a measuring cup to monitor if your kids are consuming the recommended amounts per day. Give them apples, plums, and berries to aid brain development, which is crucial at this stage.
4. Two to four ounces of meat and beans
Meat here also includes poultry, egg, and fish. An ounce of meat, poultry, or fish is pretty straightforward. To give you an idea of the serving amount for beans and eggs, one ounce equals a fourth of a cup of beans or one egg.
5. Two cups of dairy
The cup measurement is, of course, easier to apply to milk and yogurt. When it comes to cheese, a cup equals about one and a half to two ounces.
Toddler Milk Consumption
Toddlers need to continue their milk intake as it’s the best source of calcium and vitamin D, which they need to build strong bones. These two work together, with vitamin D aiding calcium absorption.
The toddler daily requirement for the two nutrients is 700 milligrams for calcium and 600 international units for vitamin D. This means two servings of dairy each day to give them sufficient calcium; however, that dairy amount doesn’t even cover half of the vitamin D requirement, hence the usual prescription for supplementation.
Generally, toddlers should drink milk with the dietary fats necessary for physical growth and brain development. These days, however, becoming overweight is a valid concern, so if there is a family history of obesity, your doctor might recommend reduced fat or even nonfat milk.
Breastfed toddlers may have difficulty transitioning to children’s milk, so a gradual transition is advised. You can also try mixing breastmilk into the new milk, slowly decreasing the breastmilk percentage until they’re finally getting 100 percent of the new milk.
Of course, there are children who cannot tolerate lactose and other possible allergens found in milk, so you may have to shop around for allergen-free milk. Make sure that you also provide other calcium sources in their diet, such as fortified grains, beans, and dark green vegetables.
Toddler Iron Requirement
The daily iron consumption recommendation for toddlers is seven milligrams. They’re at higher risk for iron deficiency since their iron stores, collected all the way back from their time in the womb, have gone down. This is why it’s important to give them iron-fortified milk, cereal, and other foods with good iron content.
Iron is an essential nutrient for toddlers since it affects physical growth and cognitive development. A deficiency could lead to learning delays and behavioral problems.
Iron-deficiency anemia is another risk. This is serious since iron is needed to make those red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body.
The following are tips to prevent iron deficiency in toddlers:
- Feed them iron-rich foods like enriched grains, poultry, meat, fish, tofu, and beans.
- Accompany iron sources with vitamin C-rich foods, which aid iron absorption. Oranges, berries, tomatoes, and broccoli are great options.
- Make sure that their milk and cereal are iron-fortified.
If you feel that your children aren’t getting enough iron just from their diet, consult your doctor. Do not supplement without a prescription from your pediatrician.
Tips for Feeding Picky Toddlers
You may provide all the nutrients they require, but if your kids aren’t consuming them, then they’re not getting proper nutrition. Here are some suggestions for making toddler mealtime more manageable.
1. For easier eating
- Cut food into smaller pieces.
- Avoid tough foods or make them soft and moist.
- Serve ground meat instead of slabs like chops or steak.
- Serve at room temperature.
- Provide child-friendly utensils.
- Use a booster chair with straps.
2. For choking prevention
- Avoid choking hazards such as tough chews and hard foods.
- Cook root vegetables until soft.
- Quarter grapes and other similarly sized foods.
- Keep them seated and upright.
- Be present while they eat.
Feeding toddlers may present many challenges, but you can be equipped to overcome them. These guidelines, as well as determination and patience, will see you through.