How To Ensure the Best Toddler Nutrition

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. Not only do they have definite ideas about what they do and do not like, they are also at an age when they are trying to exert their independence. The combination can result in difficult mealtimes and a battle of wills between parent and child.

Stubborn toddlers can be taught to enjoy a healthy variety of foods, however. Here are a few guidelines for ensuring the best toddler nutrition:

  1. Get professional advice. Check with your child's pediatrician for general nutritional guidelines and specific recommendations for your child based on her height, weight and overall health.

  • Variety matters. Introduce new foods and encourage your child to try a an assortment of foods. Even a bite or two is a good start.

  • Make it fun. Whole grain pancakes with fresh fruit smiley-faced toppings are always popular. Try to encourage veggie-love by creating plates with broccoli "trees" and mashed potato "mountains."

  • Plant a garden. Allow your little one to help you choose what vegetables to plant, sow the seeds and tend to growing vegetables. If space is limited, even a windowsill planter will do. Kids are much more likely to be excited about veggies if they've been a part of growing them. Let them nibble the vegetables raw both with and without a low-fat yogurt dip.

  • Get cooking. Enlist your toddler's help in the kitchen. Even young children can help stir, measure and serve simple foods. Look for children's cookbooks at your favorite bookstore or library and try new recipes together. Get them involved in food preparation and they'll happily gobble up their creations!

  • Don't fight. When your toddler goes through stages where she wants to eat only one or two things (as happens with most children), try not to turn it into a major conflict. Simply offer her the desired items in very small portions along with your regular meal. Be sure that you do not give your toddler enough of her current obsession to fill her belly, just enough to whet her appetite!

  • Educate yourself. Talk to your child's pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist about proper toddler portions. Many parents worry needlessly that their toddler doesn't eat enough when in fact, healthy portions can be quite small. For example, normal serving size portions for toddlers are:

    • 1/4 to 1/2 slice of bread
    • 1/2 cup dry cereal
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup pasta or rice
    • 1/4 to 1/2 piece fresh veggies or fruit
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fruit juice
    • 1-2 ounces meat or protein
    • 1/3 to 3/4 cup yogurt

  • Indulge occasionally. We all enjoy special treats and your toddler is no exception. Just be sure that treats are offered now and then, not everyday, and don't stock your kitchen with salty or sugary snacks. If you have a taste for ice cream, take a family walk or bike ride to your local ice cream parlor and enjoy a cone.

  • Set an example. Your toddler mimics your words and actions every day and will learn to eat by watching you, too. Try to eat a variety of healthy foods every day and be sure to include lean sources of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
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