Toddlers are tricky, especially when it comes to food. One day they will eat three servings of their new “favourite” dinner which contains THREE servings of hidden veggies (WIN!). The next night they will turn their nose up at it and it’s back to the drawing board.
Many parents are concerned about whether their toddler is actually getting the daily nutrients they need. In fact, toddler nutrition is probably one of the biggest concerns for parents of toddlers, especially parents of toddlers that refuse to eat anything that isn’t peanut butter, chicken nuggets or cheese.
The truth about toddlers and mealtime
72% of children aged 2-3 years old don’t eat sufficient serves of fruits and vegetables¹, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is a bit alarming but it shouldn’t send parents into a spiral of parenting guilt. If your toddler is a fussy eater, you’re in good company and we’ve got some great tips and tricks to help you along the way.
Dr Scott Dunlop, Consultant General Paediatrician, and Founder and Director of Sydney Paediatrics spoke to Mum Central about toddler nutrition and what toddlers actually need every day.
“Toddlerhood is a time of physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth. To support this they need balanced nutrition to assist their growing bodies and developing minds.
Over the first three years of life subtle changes in the requirements of micronutrients occur to reflect children’s physical increase in size and increased mobility,” says Dr Dunlop.
Toddler Nutrition: What does your toddler need?
Busy little people need a balanced and nutritionally dense diet of food and drink to fuel their growing bodies and service the energy they are burning. Toddlers aged two to three years need a wide range of vitamins and minerals, which generally come from the foods they eat.
Here’s what your toddler needs every day²:
- 1 serving of fruit
- 2½ serves of vegetables
- 4 serves of grains
- 1 serving of meat and alternatives
- 1½ serves of dairy
Toddler-friendly foods to try:
- Meat, chicken and seafood (tuna is a good one for toddlers)
- Yoghurt, cheese, eggs and milk
- Legumes and nuts
- Whole grain bread and fortified breakfast cereals, slices of bread made with iodized salt
- Plenty of fruits including citrus fruit and kiwi fruit
- Plenty of veggies including capsicum, carrot, sweet potatoes, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, and leafy greens
Infant and Toddler Forum have put together a handy visual guideline to help all of us confused parents. Take a look below to see a few sample toddler plates³.
Key vitamins and minerals your toddler requires⁴:
- Vitamin A for healthy skin, growth, eyesight and good immune function
- Vitamin B1, B2 and Niacin for the nervous system and muscles and release energy from food.
- Vitamin B6 and B12 for red blood cell production and brain function.
- Vitamin C for the immune system, healthy teeth, bones and gums and iron absorption.
- Vitamin D for strong bones.
- Vitamin E for immunity and healthy skin and eyes.
- Folate (folic acid) to absorb protein.
- Calcium for strong bones and teeth.
- Iodine for normal growth and tissue development.
- Iron for brain function and red blood cell production.
- Zinc for immune system function and wound healing.
- Phosphorus and magnesium.
Keeping on track of toddler nutrition
The best piece of advice we can give to toddler parents is to keep mealtime fun. Sure, it can be frustrating when you spend an hour in the kitchen only for your tiny food critic to ask for a piece of toast. But, that’s toddlers for you!
Below are five additional things to keep in mind when it comes to toddler nutrition.
1. Refusing new foods is actually really common
It’s actually really common for a toddler to refuse a new food up to 10 times before they may finally try it and accept it⁵. Re-offer the new food every two to three days and get creative. Try fruit in a smoothie or baked into biscuits or scones. You can also grate or finely chop vegetables into healthy snacks such as muffins and biscuits or add to pasta sauces or casseroles.
2. Put a plan in place for meals
Often toddlers are simply too busy playing to want to eat so it’s important to set time aside for meals – three per day plus a snack in between. With a routine in place, their tummies will soon start to know when it’s time to eat.
“Let hunger drive interest in food. If you don’t generate an appetite in the child, they’ll never come to the party in trying new foods or eating reasonable volumes of foods,” Dunlop suggests.
Limit meal times to a set time period, such as 10-30 minutes and avoid distractions. Offer realistic portion sizes and try to make it a bit fun with different shapes or special plates.
3. Know what deficiency looks like
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are always a concern and the best way to combat this in the tricky toddler stage is to be aware of the symptoms.
“The most common nutritional requirements to support the development of toddlers and young children are those familiar to most parents such as iron, Vitamin D and calcium,” says Dr Dunlop.
Symptoms of a deficiency may include slow growth, fatigue, muscle weakness, pale skin and low energy⁴. If you are concerned about a vitamin deficiency, please visit your GP.
4. Every day will be different and that’s okay.
Depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are, a toddler’s appetite can go up and down. Try not to stress too much if your child has a picky day – they will most likely have a “hungry” day soon.
It can be difficult to ensure your toddler is receiving all the nutrients every day to support healthy growth and development, so finding a supplement that balances missing nutrition could be important.
5. Try a toddler milk drink
One excellent way to help ensure your little one is getting the nutrients they need is with a toddler milk drink. Toddler milk drinks are suited to children 1+ years and designed to supplement a toddler’s varied diet, when energy and nutrient intake may not be adequate.
“If a child is particularly fussy with food and is missing out on essential nutrients, a toddler milk drink might be utilised for short-term nutrient support, while being mindful that the child doesn’t fill up on that milk at the expense of more calorie and nutrient dense solid food,” says Dr Dunlop.
Alula Gold Toddler milk drink is an excellent option, backed by nutritional science and loved by mums and toddlers. It has 16 vitamins and minerals for children’s growth and development plus it contains Omega 3 DHA and lutein.
FUN FACT: Two serves will provide at least 50% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of 16 essential vitamins and minerals and one serve of Alula Gold Toddler Milk Drink provides 50% of the RDI of added B vitamins and iron.
It’s pretty normal for parents to worry about their toddler’s nutrition, especially when they decide they hate almost everything you serve them. Yes, it can be worrying but try not to let your tot’s pickiness cause you too much stress.
Food and mealtimes should be fun, even if that means recutting their sandwich into “triangles, not squares” or letting them live off yoghurt for a day because it’s the only thing they want to eat.
Alula Gold Toddler to the rescue!
On those extra fussy days and as part of a healthy diet, Alula Gold Toddler can help portion the nutritional intake over the course of a day, providing reassurance for parents. Try it as a comforting drink or smoothie or as a substitute replacement for cow’s milk when preparing cereals and baking or cooking meals such as a frittata, scrolls, pikelets, scones or quiche.
This is a sponsored post for Alula Gold Toddler