By following these 10 Steps for Healthy Toddlers, you can be sure that you’re offering your child a good diet. Read on to take a step – or 10– in the right direction for your toddler’s health…
Toddlers need a varied, balanced diet to thrive. But healthy eating in this age group isn’t just important for growth and development -toddlers learn eating habits at this stage too. What you offer them now could shape their attitude to food and food choices in later life.
Judy More, a leading paediatric dietitian in the UK, is a member of Infant & Toddler Forum -a team of specialist paediatricians, psychologists and dietitians who work together to improve nutrition in the under-3s. “Toddlers do need a varied and balanced diet for their growth and their development but they also need time to learn to like the food that parents and carers offer them,” says Ms More.
Nutrition for toddlers
Despite its importance, toddler nutrition is a subject that is of10 overlooked. Advice on what to feed toddlers can seem inconsistent or confusing, and it isn’t easy to know what you can trust. But with the launch of 10 Steps for Healthy Toddlers -a new initiative from the Infant & Toddler Forum -this is set to change.
“The 10 Steps bust some of the myths about feeding toddlers, providing reassurance and clarity for parents and carers,” says Ms More, one of the key authors of Steps. “They also reinforce the need to be vigilant and aware about the nutritional value of the foods we feed toddlers, and the importance of forging good habits and attitudes towards food and meal times.”
The 10 Steps are an easy-to-use guide on what food to offer toddlers and how best to manage mealtimes. Even better, the 10 Steps can be given out to childminders like nursery staff or grandparents, so that everyone is offering your toddler the same care.
Ms More explains: “They’re designed to be used or disseminated within playgroups and within the home, so that everybody is singing from the same song sheet.”
Encourage a routine
The 10 Steps cover all aspects of toddler health to help toddlers develop good habits for health, growth and development. Step one, for example, suggests families eat together, and to strive for happy, relaxed mealtimes. Another, step four, encourages a routine with three meals and two to three snacks a day.
Dr Gill Harris, a Consultant Pediatric Clinical Psychologist at The Children`s Hospital, Birmingham, UK, also helped develop the 10 Steps.
“The toddler years are difficult because this is a time when children start to reject food rather than earlier in infancy when they learn to accept food,”says Dr Harris. “They start to challenge their parents, and it’s very difficult at this time because they start to go through a period where they not only refuse new foods, but might actually refuse the foods that they’ve ea10 before.”
Let your toddler decide
Step two addresses this by suggesting that you decide which nutritious foods to offer, but letting your toddler decide how much to eat.
Dr Harris explains: “A toddler should eat what they need to eat, and that’s always a difficult concept for parents to cope with -that the toddler can regulate their own appetite.”
For Ms More, the Steps are a positive resource for parents. “We hope these 10 steps will help parents have more confidence in the fact that most of them are doing the right thing, and some of them could make some small changes to manage mealtimes better.”
Find out more info about the 10 Steps for Healthy Toddlers along with other information and handy tools on feeding toddlers.
More tips on children’s health:
5 Simple rules for raising healthy kids
Improve your kids’ relationship with food
Tips for back to work mums
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