3 Ways to Ensure Toddlers Are Getting the Nutrients They Need
The eating patterns of little ones are sometimes hard to keep up with; sometimes they won’t eat anything, and sometimes it seems like you can’t keep them full! Little ones go through certain growth periods at different ages where their nutrient needs may change. That’s why it’s so important to always consult with your pediatrician about your child’s personal needs when it comes to nutrition. These facts and tips about nutrition for toddlers are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Balanced Plate for Meals and Snacks
One of the best ways to make sure your little one is getting enough nutrients is by making meals and snacks based on a balanced plate: fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy. According to Children’s Health at Stanford Medicine, a proper portion of each food for your toddler is about a quarter of an adult portion size. While the amounts of each food will increase as they grow, maintaining a balanced plate is important for the nutrition for toddlers, and will help your little one build healthy eating habits for the future. Many children’s plates are designed with four sections — one section for each type of food — and they make an excellent tool to teach your little one which food groups they need on their plate.
A sample meal could look like: strawberries, soft broccoli, cooked pasta, ground beef, and milk.
A sample snack could look like: applesauce, bell peppers, pretzels, and a cheese stick.
Make Food Easy to Eat
Especially when your little ones are finding independence (in general life, as well as with eating,) it’s important to give them the opportunity to eat by themselves safely. Here are some tips for safe eating:
- Cut food into bite-size pieces
- Offer soft foods (yogurt, applesauce)
- Serve ground protein (ground beef or turkey)
- Have them sit upright and comfortably while eating
- Use child-size and child-safe utensils
Include Them in the Food Conversation
Introducing them to new foods and letting them examine the food before it gets to their plate allows them to be curious about new foods. It also may make them more inclined to try new foods that could be great nutrition for toddlers! Let’s say you bought a new fruit that your little one has not tried before, like dragon fruit. Show them what it looks like whole and sliced up. Invite them to explore the fruit with their senses: what does it feel like, look like, smell like, sound like, and taste like? When little ones are given the opportunity to explore and make a decision for themselves, they are more likely to try something new, which could lead to an adventurous palate!
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
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Hi, I'm Miss Julia!
Miss Julia has been an early childhood educator for 5 years, with over 10 years of experience working in childcare. She has been teaching at Playgarden Prep since 2017, and is happy to share ideas on some of her favorite early education topics with you! Miss Julia has a BA from UC Irvine, and uses her experience in performing arts to inspire little ones every day in her enrichment classes at Playgarden. In her free time, Miss Julia loves enjoying nature, cooking, and creating with friends.