How to feed your toddler healthy

Toddlers are fussy eaters. At this age the child should grow with proper height and weight. Feeding nutritious food to your toddler can be a challenging job. Here are some tips and strategies to turn his mealtime more fun and enjoyable.

Children at the age of 12 months to 36 months are called toddlers. These age group children are usually curious, energetic, active and bubbly. The food for a toddler is not much different from adult food, except that it consists of simpler smaller portions with a balanced nutrition.

Milk feed is very important

Some mothers are always complaining that their little one does not eat anything. The problem may be that the child is getting too many milk feeds. He or she does not have an appetite for solid foods. Milk may fill the carbohydrate and protein requirement at this stage, but it does not have iron or vitamin C. By the time the child crosses one year of age, two to three milk feeds per day are enough. Some children, on the other hand, give up milk altogether, when forced to quit bottle feeding. Milk is very important for children, especially in vegetarian families. Instead of plain milk, it can be flavored with mild chocolate, milk shakes of mango, banana, melon, vanilla etc. Milk can also be given in the form of curd, paneer, ice-creams etc.

Tips on eating

The growth rate of toddlers is slower than that of infants. The average weight increase per year is now only about 2 kg. The increased requirement this stage is due to increase physical activity. The child should be allowed to have only small bites. This allows for full mastication and saliva release. It keeps dental and digestive problems away. Do not give cold drinks along with food. Children gulp down drinks and little space is left in their stomach for food. Besides, these will hamper digestion. Water too should be preferably given after the meal is over. This ensures the child has his fill and there is proper digestion.

Too much of a good thing is undesirable

A child's stomach is the size of a closed fist. It has a limited capacity. Some mothers feel that they should keep feeding the child all the 12 waking hours, this is a wrong thought. Since health experts recommended fruit juices, they keep giving the child different juices at regular intervals. As the child's tummy is full of juice, he cannot take other solid foods, which are essential for growth. Besides, excessive fruit juice intake can lead to dental caries. And commercially packed fruit juices have high levels of food colors, preservatives and sugars. So, it is best to give one or two feeds of fresh home extracted juice.

Best meal pattern for children

The child is unable to eat large quantities of food at a single meal. Beside the normal four meal pattern, the child can be given a mid- morning snack or a four o' clock snack. A snack does not mean a fried chips packet, chocolate, ice-cream or popcorn. Healthy snacks like fruits, fresh juices, cooked pulses, boiled egg, dry fruits, nuts, sprouts etc. Take care that snacks should not diminish the appetite for the main meal. It is best to have special dishes for the young one for their meal and snacks. Feeding cups and bowls should be deep, as the child can use them with ease. Dishes, cups and plates with pretty designs, attractive colors and beautiful motifs of popular cartoon characters are now available in the market. A child can quite possessive about his or her dish. This makes his meal pattern regular.

Foods not recommended

Children like mild-flavored food. Therefore, an excess of over-pungent foods like garlic and radish should be omitted from their diet. Tea, coffee and other stimulants should also be avoided. Fried foods are difficult to digest, so the quantity should be kept low. Excessive sweets, packed snacks, toffees should also be avoided. Some parents hand out sweets for every good deed the child does. Such bribery leads to increased expectations all the time. Sweet products are also called empty calorie products, because they may fulfill the child's energy requirement but are lacking in other nutrients.

Mealtime should be regular

Meals should be given at a regular hour. It is up to the mother to decide whether it would be easier to feed the child half an hour before family meals or along with the other family members. Mealtime should be pleasant. The child should not be forced to have meals. If the child wants to feed himself, he should be allowed to do so. Hand and mouth coordination is not perfect at his age and there is bound to be spillage. It is a good idea to give the child smaller portions first. Subsequent helpings can be given to the child on demand. Also, give only half-full glasses of juice, water etc to children. Because spilling of liquid on table-tops is common with them. Toddler stars their health and hygiene learning from their meal table, so feed your child by telling the morals and values of food and farmers from the childhood.


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