As your baby grows into a toddler, they go through a period of intense mental and physical development, as their body prepares for the challenge of walking and talking. A balanced diet is essential to ensure that they have a healthy development, but a toddler’s balanced diet is much different from ours. Their nutritional needs are very different and when planning meals and snacks for your toddler, these needs need to be considered.
Sugar and Salt
Toddlers should have less than 2g of salt per day, which is around ⅓rd of the recommended daily allowance for adults. If you are preparing food for your toddler yourself, then it is important to not add any salt and be aware that some foods are not suitable to give to toddlers, because they are already high in salt and sugar. To show how food should be considered, 2 digestive biscuits contain 1/5th of your toddler’s daily salt allowance. Foods which have natural sugars, such as milk, fruits and vegetables are fine to give to toddlers, but you should avoid foods which have added sugar.
It is important to remember that toddlers have smaller stomachs than adults – on average, a toddler’s stomach is around 5 times smaller than an adult’s. Your toddler’s diet should consist of small amount of nutrient and energy rich foods during the day. To make sure that your little one is getting the right balance of energy and nutrients, you should try and give your toddler 3 small balanced meals a day as well as a couple of regular snacks in-between meals.
Messy mealtimes are to be expected with toddlers, and it can be tempting to give them larger portions if they’re prone to throwing their food around! Instead of doing this and creating food waste and risking giving your toddler portions which are too big, look at protective weaning bibs and toddler suitable plates and cutlery instead.
What Is A Balanced Diet For A Toddler?
A toddler’s balanced diet should ideally be made up of a combination of:
- Starchy Foods. Things such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. Aim to offer starchy foods at every meal and offer as a snack too.
- Fruit and vegetables. Try to give your toddler a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables so that they are enjoying a range of different nutrients.
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt. Milk should be part of your toddlers daily diet, but be sure to include other dairy products too to increase their calcium intake.
- Meat, fish or alternatives. It is important to provide your toddler with the protein they need and you should look to give them two portions of protein per day, whether it is in the form of salmon, chicken, pulses or vegan/vegetarian alternatives.
Foods To Avoid
When it comes to balanced diets for toddlers, there are some foods you need to pay extra attention to when preparing or avoid altogether.
- Salt should be avoided as much as possible, so keep it to a minimum when cooking foods and use herbs and spices to season foods instead.
- Avoid foods which contain artificial sweeteners, flavourings and colourings. These aren’t allowed to be added to manufactured foods for babies and toddlers, but they are often present in foods for adults.
- Eggs and shellfish can cause food poisoning if not cooked correctly and are common allergens, so should be approached with caution. Nuts are also an excellent source of nutrients, but they are also a common allergen. If you have a family history of these allergies, then approach these foods with caution and seek your doctor’s advice. You might want to avoid them until after your little one is over 3 years old.