By: Heather Dyson
Toddlers are not known for their consistency, at least when it comes to their diet. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 are busy discovering the world around them and often don’t have time to eat. They do not overthink eating like adults do but rather eat based on their appetite and what their body tells them they need. While we might look at a typical day to assess if an adult is meeting his or her nutritional needs, with toddlers we look at a typical week. There is no need to worry if your little one doesn’t eat much one day or if he only eats apples - that is normal. Pay attention to what your child eats during an entire week, which will give you a better idea if he has a well-balanced diet.
Because of their small stomachs, toddlers tend to eat in small amounts throughout the day, which is why snacking is such an important part of their diet. Be sure to have set meal and snack times and offer a variety of healthy foods. Snacks should be thought of as mini-meals, an opportunity for extra nutrition. Great toddler-friendly snacks include (but are not limited to):
- Fresh fruit cut into bite sized pieces and a whole wheat graham cracker
- A half sandwich with a thin spread of peanut, almond or sunflower butter and banana on a slice of whole grain bread
- Plain yogurt with a little honey and fresh berries (12 months or older)
- ½ a string cheese and whole wheat goldfish crackers
- Cucumbers or halved grape tomatoes with yogurt dip or hummus
- Apple slices with peanut or sunflower butter and yogurt dip (mix equal parts nut butter and vanilla yogurt, sprinkle with cinnamon)
These snacks are also great for the toddler on the go!
The best way to ensure your toddler is getting a well-balanced diet is to offer a wide variety of healthy food, which includes protein (meats, eggs, beans, dairy, nut butters), vegetables, fruit, whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa) and healthy fats (avocado, nut butters, olives or olive oil). Food allergies should always be considered with children. Meet with a Registered Dietitian for safe meal and snack ideas if you have a food allergic child.
For more information on creating a healthy plate, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
What health snacks does your child love? Share your favorites with us!
About the Author: Heather Dyson is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian who currently focuses on counseling patients with a variety of health situations, and in ages ranging from infancy to elderly. Click here to learn more about Heather.