Healthy Eating Ideas For Toddlers

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Are you looking for healthy eating ideas for toddlers? I know it can be challenging to come up with healthy foods that are easy to make and will appeal to your toddler. It’s a challenge my wife and I have been tackling head on since the birth of our first child. The list below shows 10 healthy eating ideas we use that you may wish to try.

Healthy Eating Ideas For Toddlers

Healthy eating is important at every age. Offer toddlers a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy or fortified soy alternatives. When deciding on foods and beverages, choose options that are full of nutrients and lower in sodium and avoid added sugars. Start with these tips:

Provide foods full of nutrients

Offer your toddler a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy or fortified soy alternatives. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars and choose those with lower sodium.

Look for cues

When your child is hungry, he or she usually lets you know. But fullness cues are not as obvious. A child may be full if he or she pushes food away, closes mouth, turns head away from food, or makes sounds to let you know. Recognizing and responding to these cues helps children learn how to self-regulate their intake.

Prevent choking

Have your toddler sit at a table for meals and snacks and not wander around with food in their mouth. Foods such as hot dogs, candy, nuts and seeds, raw carrots, grapes, popcorn, and chunks of peanut butter can be choking risks. See the USDA Team Nutrition worksheet for more.

Drinks matter, too!

Did you know the only beverages your toddler needs are water, milk, and, if available, breastmilk? Avoid drinks with added sugars like soda, flavored milks, juice drinks, and sports drinks.

Try new foods

Try serving a new food alongside a familiar food in the same meal. It may take up to 8-10 tries for a child to accept a new food.

Serve safe food

Help your child learn to wash their hands before eating. Only serve foods that have been cooked properly and avoid serving your toddler unpasteurized (raw) juice or milk.

The benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite.

Healthy Eating for Toddlers
Toddlerhood is a time when children learn about new foods and lifelong eating habits
are established. To help children grow up to be healthy adults, it is important to teach
them healthy eating habits as early as possible.
Growth and appetite
Your child’s growth will be rapid during the first year of life. This growth will slow down
in the second year. This means their food intake is likely to slow down too. Toddlers
are also starting to show their independence and food is one of the only things they
have control over. So it is not surprising that they like to say “no” to foods and make
their own choices. As toddlers are getting better at moving around, they will spend
more time exploring their world. This leaves less time for eating and drinking.
Remember these are normal behaviours.
As a parent, your responsibility is to make sure you provide appropriate foods at the
right times and the rest is up to your child. Toddlers have good signals for hunger and
fullness and they should decide “how much” and “whether” they eat at all. Trust your
child’s appetite and try not to fuss about the amount of food your child eats. The more
you fuss about the amount of food eaten, the more your child will react and it will turn
meal times into an unpleasant experience for everyone.
If you are worried your child is not eating enough food, eating too much food or you
are concerned about their growth, contact your Maternal Child Health Nurse, General
Practitioner or Dietitian
Healthy eating habits to encourage
You can encourage your toddler to eat well by being a good role model and eating
healthy, regular meals yourself. Your child will learn good eating habits by watching you.

HEALTHY EATING FOR TODDLER

Healthy Eating for Toddlers
Toddlerhood is a time when children learn about new foods and lifelong eating habits
are established. To help children grow up to be healthy adults, it is important to teach
them healthy eating habits as early as possible.
Growth and appetite
Your child’s growth will be rapid during the first year of life. This growth will slow down
in the second year. This means their food intake is likely to slow down too. Toddlers
are also starting to show their independence and food is one of the only things they
have control over. So it is not surprising that they like to say “no” to foods and make
their own choices. As toddlers are getting better at moving around, they will spend
more time exploring their world. This leaves less time for eating and drinking.
Remember these are normal behaviours.
As a parent, your responsibility is to make sure you provide appropriate foods at the
right times and the rest is up to your child. Toddlers have good signals for hunger and
fullness and they should decide “how much” and “whether” they eat at all. Trust your
child’s appetite and try not to fuss about the amount of food your child eats. The more
you fuss about the amount of food eaten, the more your child will react and it will turn
meal times into an unpleasant experience for everyone.
If you are worried your child is not eating enough food, eating too much food or you
are concerned about their growth, contact your Maternal Child Health Nurse, General
Practitioner or Dietitian
Healthy eating habits to encourage
You can encourage your toddler to eat well by being a good role model and eating
healthy, regular meals yourself. Your child will learn good eating habits by watching you

• Toddlers need to eat regularly as they have small tummies. Develop a regular
meal time routine consisting of 3 meals and a snack between each meal. Offer
small serves and your child will ask for more if they are still hungry. Remember
your child is in charge of how much they eat. Do not force them to eat if they
are not hungry.
• Set aside 20-30 minutes for main meals and 10-20 minutes for snacks. Avoid
any distractions like television, toys or games during meal times.
• Try to limit ‘grazing’ between meal and snack times. If your child constantly eats
they may not be hungry for their meal or snack and this will make them less
likely to try new foods.
• Refusing to try new foods is common. Food may need to be offered 10 times or
more before it becomes familiar and happily accepted. Re-offer the new food
every two to three days.
• Offer a variety of foods. Food refusal may be caused by boredom. Try offering
different nutritious foods or change the texture, appearance or taste of a certain
food. For example, try cutting sandwiches in different shapes or roasting
vegetables rather than steaming.
• You decide what food is on offer. Allow your child to have some choices but
keep them simple. Offer 2 food options with similar nutrient value, for example
“Would you like to have yoghurt or custard for afternoon tea?”
• Do not use food as a reward or punishment. If food is offered as a reward, then
this food will be preferred above others. Non-food rewards can be useful, for
example sticker charts, books, toys or a visit to a playground.
• Avoid giving popcorn, hard lollies, hard fruits, hard vegetables in chunks, or
whole nuts to children less than 3 years of age due to the choking risk.
• Avoid foods high in sugar such as sweet biscuits, soft drinks, sweets, cordial
and juices.
Iron
Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in childhood.
Toddlers who drink large volumes of milk or juices are at greater risk of low iron stores.
This is because these fluids contain very little iron and toddlers can fill up on them
which reduces their appetite for iron-rich foods.
A toddler requires no more than 400ml milk each day. Fruit juice should be avoided
as a daily drink and limited to no more than half a cup if given on special occasions

Good food sources of iron include: red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts/seeds, and
cereals fortified with iron. Your dietitian can provide you with specific information to
meet your toddler’s needs.
Fluids
Water should be encouraged as your child’s main drink. Water is freely available, and
contains no sugar, calories, or artificial colours and flavours. Most children enjoy water
if it is offered from an early age. Try offering water with a fun straw or cup, or add ice
cube shapes. Avoid cordial, soft drink and fruit juice.
Suitable Snacks
Toddlers and young children need small, frequent snacks. They generally cannot eat
enough food at main meals to provide sufficient energy and nutrients for the day.
Choosing the right snacks for your child is important. Pre-packaged snacks are widely
available at supermarkets but they are often high in sugar and unhealthy fats. They
are convenient but this does not mean children should consume them every day. Try
to limit snacking just prior to a main meal as it may reduce your child’s appetite. Eat
snacks at the designated eating place in your home, such as the dining table. Turn off
the TV and minimise distractions.
Example of suitable snacks:
• Fresh fruit slices or canned fruits (in
natural juice)
• Small tub of yoghurt or custard
• Fruit bun, raisin toast or pikelets with
a thin spread of margarine or
avocado
• Sandwiches (peanut butter / ham &
cheese / vegemite)
• Cheese slices
• Baked bean or spaghetti on toast
• Hard boiled eggs
• Cup of plain milk
• Soft vegetable sticks (e.g. steamed
sweet potatoes or carrot sticks,
cucumber, cherry tomatoes). Serve
with a dip such as hummus
• Rice crackers or corn cakes with
toppings such as hummus, cream
cheese, ricotta cheese, tuna or
avocado
• Fruit smoothie (milk blended with
fresh fruits)
• Homemade muffins with fruit or
grated vegetables included

How much should my toddler eat?
Your toddler’s diet should be based on foods from the five food groups. This table can
be used as a guide to the number of serves to offer each day from each food group.
Be guided by your toddler’s appetite; the amount they eat will vary each day. You may
need to offer smaller portions throughout the day if your toddler has a small appetite.
Breads and
cereals Serve size Tips
4 serves daily • 1 slice of bread
• ½ bread roll
• 2/3 cup cereal
• ½ cup cooked porridge
• ¼ cup muesli
• ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or
noodles
• 3 crisp breads
• 1 small English muffin or scone
• 4-5 dry crackers
Choose wholegrain
products or high fibre
varieties
Choose cereal products
low in sugar (compare
sugar/100g on labels)
Vegetables Serve size Tips
2 to 3 serves
daily
• ½ cup cooked vegetables
• 1 small potato or ½ cup
mashed potato
• 1 cup salad vegetables
• 1 medium tomato
• ½ cup cooked or canned beans
or lentils
Offer a variety of
different coloured
vegetables each day.
Fruits Serve size Tips
1 serve daily • 1 medium banana, apple,
orange or pear
• 2 small fruits, e.g. apricots, kiwi
fruit or plums
• 1 cup diced or canned fruit
• 30g dried fruit (eg 4 dried
apricot halves or 1 ½ tbsp
sultanas)
• ½ cup fruit juice – should be
limited to 1 serve daily
Fresh fruit is a better
choice than fruit juice
as it also provides fibre
for healthy bowels.
Choose canned fruit in
natural fruit juice
instead of syrup.

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