I’m sure you shall agree that cooking for your toddler can sometimes be rather frustrating. You want to make sure they are getting enough of the “right” foods such as fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and fats so that they can grow and thrive.
One of the questions that I often find myself asking is “how much of each food do I give my toddler?” So to help answer this question – we have given you a BASIC MEAL guideline to work from.
The question is not so much the amount of food but rather the balance and variety to ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients needed to assist in their development, growth and wellbeing.
By balance we mean simply getting some of each food group into every meal that your child has. To ensure they receive enough vitamins and minerals, include fruit and vegetables as well as good quality wholegrains e.g. brown rice, pulses, pasta.
- When we talk about variety we talk about the number of nutrients you want to get into their diet.
- Perhaps offer sweet potato as an alternative to regular white potatoes.
- Choose your brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and try mixing and matching them at each mealtime.
- Offer cut up and washed raw vegetables such as mini corns, cucumber or carrot sticks.
- Try finely grating carrots or courgettes into sauces.
- The more you try and add variety to their diet the better.
When it comes to meal portions - remember that toddlers' tummies are not very big and therefore may not eat enough food at one sitting to actually last them until the next. Besides the fact that their ability to concentrate long enough to finish each meal is not great and often they will lose concentration or interest long before the meal is finished.
- Therefore allow them to snack in between meals with healthy finger foods.
- One snack between each meal should be adequate. e.g. Offer a few squares or toast after breakfast or some cubed fruit or raisins a little later.
- The important thing is to not offer a snack at least an hour before their actual meal, so that they are in fact hungry at each meal.
Another great way to work out a toddler's portion for each meal:
- A serving of fruit or vegetables would equate to what a child can hold in their hand.
- As for protein such as chicken or beef, this should be the size of their palm and fish the size of their hand.
- So if your little one only has a couple of grapes and some peas with a bite of chicken at a meal, the chances are your little one will be starving again in an hour.
A good way to gauge the amount of food and the nutritional value your child has had in a day is to simply tally up the overall intake for the day e.g. If your child only had a bite of chicken at one mealtime however had two or three other forms of protein in the day - then this should be enough protein for one day.
Some additional "Healthy Snacks" for you to consider:
- Yoghurt-coated rice cakes
- Fruit cut into cubes
- Natural yoghurt (not low fat) - mixed with some fruit puree or honey
- Vegetables cut into slices e.g. carrot or cucumber sticks
WARNING: Parents - Always be careful of choking on small pieces of food etc. Never leave your little one unattended or give them pieces of food too big to chew and or swallow.
Published with permission. Originally appeared in the ParentingNetwork South Africa, www.babeeze.co.za.