A child is expected to triple its birth weight by his/her first birthday. At this stage, specific nutrients are needed for the child's optimal growth. Protein, fats, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals should be provided from a variety of food sources. It is expected that a child's meal should contain at least 4 kinds of nutrients at suitable proportions before it can be said to be adequate. An adequate meal contains lots of different foods, offered in a variety of combinations to ensure a toddler gets all the necessary nutrients he needs to grow, explore and develop. Offering a variety of meals to a toddler helps him learn about new flavours and develop healthy eating habits.
Providing an adequate diet for a toddler at every meal can be challenging. As long as he eats most of what is offered, he would likely get the necessary nutrients his body requires. One does not
have to stick to a particular food to provide a certain nutrient. If a toddler refuses a particular food (as they are wont to) due to its texture, taste or flavour (especially vegetables), the food item can be blended or mashed, and added to his favorite food. A toddler should learn to get used to new textures, tastes and more regular meal times. Toddlers will be able to meet their nutritional needs if they are offered a variety of healthy family foods at regular times.
A toddler should be offered a variety of healthy fruits and snacks (banana, pear, apple, smoothies, etc). Toddlers are known to be picky eaters so creativity in the preparation and presentation of their foods can go a long way towards improving their feeding habits.
Important nutrients for toddlers
Almost all healthy toddlers get enough protein, fat and carbohydrate in their diets. The nutrients most likely to be low in a toddler’s diet are calcium and iron, both of which are very important for the toddler’s growth and development.
Good sources of iron include: meat, liver, kidney beans, and green leafy vegetables. Some toddlers do not like eating meat as they find it hard to chew. Such toddlers should be offered well cooked, soft or semi mashed meat , so they could be easily chewed.
Giving your toddler Vitamin C rich foods such as strawberries, citrus fruits, and vegetables increases the amount of iron that is absorbed from other plant-based foods like bread, Peas, spinach, and legumes. So aim to offer your toddler a Vitamin C rich food or drink at every meal to improve his body’s absorption of dietary Iron.
Good sources of calcium include egg, seafoods such as crayfish and fish, legumes such as beans, groundnut and soybeans, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products. It is important a toddler gets at least a portion of these each day.