Healthy eating for babies and toddlers
The key to healthy eating for your babies and toddlers is variety! No one food can give them every nutrient they need, and a wide range of food tastes and textures experienced now will help ensure they have a healthier diet as they grow older. There are so many different foods readily available to us these days that, even if your baby has likes and dislikes, it should be possible to provide your baby with a varied, wholesome diet. Don’t worry if they go through phases of only wanting the same foods; this sometimes happens, but keep offering more different tastes along the way.
A healthy diet is one made up from a mixture of the 5 different food groups shown below:
Starchy foods - Every baby or toddler meal should be based on starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, chapatti, cereals, yam or plantain (and offer starchy foods at some snack times).
Fruit and Veg - At every one of the mealtimes include some sort of fruit and/or vegetables. Aim for 5 portions per day and choose as many different colours of fruit and veg as possible.
Protein - Once weaning is established, aim to give two to three servings of ‘protein' foods such as meat, fish, eggs, beans or pulses, each day.
Dairy - Give them about three servings a day of dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese. From 6 months up to around the age of one year, your baby should be drinking about 500ml milk (breast or formula) per day, but this should decrease to around 360ml for toddlers from 1 year onwards.
Fats or sugar - Foods that are high in fat and/or sugar can be a valuable source of the extra energy that babies and toddlers need, but should only be given in limited quantities.
Of course, as weaning progresses and your baby reaches the end of their first year, the range of different foods they can eat should have increased. There is lots of helpful advice on feeding a balanced diet to your toddler, you might also like to visit the Little People Plates website.
Extreme food refusal
Food refusal and faddy eating is something that a lot of you will experience with your toddlers (see my last blog). By 18 months old most children will have entered a ‘neophobic phase’ during which they will be reluctant to try new foods, but the key to getting through this stage is to keep offering your child new foods. Even though these new tastes and textures may be rejected at first, provided you keep exposing your toddler to new foods, keep calm and make sure they see other people around them eating different foods, most toddlers will get through this neophobic phase unscathed.
But what about when food refusal is extreme? Some children find it very difficult to move through this phase and will only eat a small number of different foods and refuse anything new in their diet over a long period. This can be very worrying for parents, especially if your child’s growth is being affected. If you find yourself in this situation, the most important thing is to make sure your toddler is getting enough energy (calories) for adequate growth and weight gain. Don’t worry too much about making sure your child has a more varied diet; introducing new foods should never be carried out at the expense of growth.
Once your toddler is gaining weight well, then you can start thinking more about introducing new foods. Tips to keep in mind -
- Never force your toddler to eat disliked foods
- Don’t withhold accepted foods to encourage them to eat disliked foods as this may lead to weight loss
- Avoid putting ‘disliked’ foods on the same plate as ‘liked’ foods – they may refuse the whole lot
- Avoid long gaps between meals – being hungry won’t make your toddler eat disliked foods
If you think you need the help of an expert in childhood feeding difficulties (e.g. a paediatrician, clinical psychologist, dietitian or speech/language therapist) with managing your toddler’s extreme food refusal and to make sure they’re getting enough vitamins and minerals, ask your G.P. or health visitor for a referral.
Until next time,
Fussy Eating in babies and toddlers
Refusing to eat certain foods can mean different things for different babies at different times. It may just be their way of getting your attention. It may just be that they don’t like the taste or texture of a particular food at a particular time, but this doesn’t mean they will always refuse the same food. For some foods you may need to offer it more than ten times before they’ll happily eat it. My daughter refused peas for years, I even resorted to hiding them in her mashed potato to try and get her to eat them (although of course she always found them!), but now she loves them!
How many of you are having to deal with your baby being fussy about the food at the moment? It can be exasperating having the foods you’ve lovingly prepared for your little one being refused, but you can be sure you’re not alone. Particularly for toddlers, food refusal is all part of them wanting to exert their new-found independence on the world around them! It is a normal phase that many of them go through and you shouldn’t worry too much.
However, there are a few things you can do to help during this phase:
- Stay relaxed, don’t rush mealtimes, be patient
- Eat with your baby whenever possible
- Offer mainly familiar foods, but try new foods in small quantities too
- As they get older, let your toddler be involved with shopping and preparing meals so they feel more in control
- If a food is refused, don’t force them to eat it. Withdraw it without any fuss, and then try it again another time.
- Praise your child when they have completed a meal, but don’t scold them when they don’t.
For more advice on feeding a fussy eater, have a look at our expert advice on hipp.co.uk
Tags: babies, baby, food, healthy, Helen, Hipp Organic, weaning, fussy eater, toddlers
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