Toddlers are growing and developing rapidly and to do that, they need the proper nutrition. Proper nutrition also helps ensure good health, of course. In this world of fast foods and convenience foods, parents need to know how to feed their toddlers the best diet possible.
How Many Calories?
The Baby Center website suggests that most toddlers need to consume about 40 calories per inch of their height every day. That means the average two year old girl, who is about 34 inches tall, would need about 1360 calories each day. The average three year old boy, who is about 38 inches tall, would need about 1520 calories each day. That may sound like a lot of calories for a young child but remember, toddlers are growing rapidly. They need calories. Your child’s caloric needs may vary, though, based on her activity level and other factors so don’t be too concerned if she eats a little more or a little less. Since toddlers can only eat small amounts at one time, your child should have three meals plus two or three snacks each day.
What Should Toddlers Eat?
Toddlers should eat a variety of healthful foods, like lean meats, beans, tofu, milk and other dairy products, whole grain breads and crackers, whole grain cereals, fresh fruits and fresh veggies. Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, though, and often fixate on one or two foods and refuse to eat anything else for a while. Just keep offering a variety of healthful foods every day. Your toddler’s tastes will probably change frequently and what she hates today, she may love tomorrow. Nearly all toddlers will end up getting the nutrition they need if they are offered a variety of healthful foods every day.
Avoid most foods that contain lots of fat but remember that everyone, especially growing children, needs some fat in their diets. Aim for healthful fats like nuts (if your child is able to chew them well and has no allergies to tree nuts or peanuts), nut butters and olive oil. Limit fat from “junk foods” like candy and chips. You don’t need to feed your toddler skim milk or fat free cheese, but you don’t need to feed her whole milk and lots of full-fat cheese, either. Aim for the middle road.
What About Junk Foods?
Like children of all ages, most toddlers like “junk foods” like chips, cookies, candies and chocolate milk. Those things have little to offer in terms of nutritional value but do have plenty of fat, calories and sugar. Your toddler can live perfectly well with no junk food at all but small amounts should not cause any harm. Just make sure your child gets plenty of healthful food too and limit the sweets and snack foods to small amounts.
Baby Center. http://www.babycenter.com/0_nutrition-guidelines-for-young-children_9245.bc . Nutrition Guidelines for Young Children.
Kids Health. http://kidshealth.org/parent/food/general/toddler_food.html . Nutrition Guide for Toddlers.
KidsGrowth.com. http://www.kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail.cfm?id=304 . Growth Charts.