Nutritious meals and snacks should be parts of everyone's balanced diet. However, ensuring toddlers receive adequate nutrition can require strategy.
Fighting off giant squids and playing princess can push eating well to the bottom of a toddler's to-do list. Setting regular meal and snack times at the table can help toddlers get with the program.
Because toddlers aren't likely to eat much at one sitting, healthful snacks between meals and even after dinner can help prevent them from developing cranky moods and running out of gas. Allow toddlers a choice of several healthful food options to allow them to assert their growing independence. Good snacks for toddlers include:
• Whole-grain, low-sugar breakfast cereals—1/2 cup
• Yogurt—1/3 cup
Rating the Pantry
Parents can improve the overall nutrition of their toddlers and the whole family by only stocking healthful foods or keeping high-sugar, high-fat treats out of sight and reserved for special occasions. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping and choose whole fruits and vegetables, lean meats to prepare at home and whole-grain bread.
When shopping down the aisles, let nutrition labels be your guide to foods low in fat, sodium and added sugar. Nutrition labels carry recommended daily values for certain nutrients based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.
Toddlers require only half that number of calories daily, and of those, 30 to 40 percent should be fat. Good sources would be unsaturated fats that do not raise cholesterol levels, such as avocados, canola oil, nut butters, nuts and olive oil.
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to prove food label claims, parents should look closely at nutrition labels before serving them to toddlers or other family members. Products advertised to have less fat than the regular brand—"reduced fat," 25 percent less, "light," 50 percent less and "low-fat," less than 3 grams of fat per serving—may still be high in sugar or low in nutrients, making them poor choices for good Health.
Looking for crowd-pleasing healthful meals? Search for "Menu Makeovers" to try recipes from the book developed for Project 18 at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent. Visit www.peytonmanning.stvincent.org.
Kara Borcherding, R.D., is a pediatric dietitian at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.
For more healthful tips for your child, sign-up for a free Kids' Health Tip each weekday at www.kidshealthline.com.