Toddler nutrition is very important, not just so your child will grow healthy and strong, but also so he or she will not fall into the habit of eating fattening foods which provide no beneficial nutrients and can lead to an obesity problem.
Remember, eating more calories than you burn will lead to obesity at any age.
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What does a toddler need for a healthy digestive system?
Children need a balanced diet that includes foods from the four main food groups; starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta, dairy foods like cheese and yoghurts, protein foods such as eggs, fish, meat, nuts and pulses and fruit and vegetables.
Food should be given at regular times during the day (meals and snacks) so that children learn to recognise when they are hungry and – more importantly – when they are full.
Little tummies can't cope with large amounts of food, so regular smaller meals and regular snacks are preferable to three large meals and better for their digestion.
If children are allowed to snack as and when they want they can struggle to get into a good mealtime routine.
Snacks, which aid a healthy digestive system, should be thought of as small meals and not sweet treats.
Of course all children enjoy sweets and chocolates, but try to avoid giving them out routinely during the day. Try to get your children to see them as a treat and not as a regular food in their diet. Sweets and chocolates have no benefits for a child's digestive system and have a serious negative effect on their teeth!
The best snacks are fruit, vegetables (perhaps raw and served with a dip) bread (including pitta) with healthy spreads, cheese or yoghurt.
How much should children eat?
Many children confuse their parents with their eating habits. One day they pick at something and act fussy about everything put before them. The next day they are hungry and tackle a big bowl of pasta. All parents at some stage worry that their children may not be getting the right balance of nutrients – and often it's not for the lack of trying.
- If your child is growing in height and hitting all the key milestones in development then there is usually nothing to worry about.
- Children are much better than adults at eating what they need for their energy output. So on more active outdoor days your little one may eat more than they would on a stay-at-home and play with puzzles day.
- Never bully your child into finishing what's on her plate if she says she has had enough.
- If you are not sure how big a portion you should be giving your toddler start with what you think is a small portion and give her the option of having more if it wasn't enough.
- This helps children recognise the signs that they are “full” and helps them develop a good sense of portion control.