Tips for Preparing Healthy Meals for Your Toddler

Feeding your toddler can often be a challenging feat. That’s due to the many developmental changes occurring during this time. Kids are starting to aim for control and independence. As their growth rate slows, so does their appetite decreases. These changes can trigger a challenging mealtime. Parents need to set limits and provide structure for the toddler.

The following suggestions can aid mealtime management, so your child gets the proper nutrition they need:

  • Provide your toddler with regular snacks and meals.
  • Refrain from battling over food and meals.
  • Limit your child’s juice intake and promote whole fruit as an alternative.
  • Be sensible about food portions as they should only be about a quarter size of an adult’s amount.
  • Don’t serve dessert as a reward, and try giving it along with the rest of the food.
  • Be considerate with your toddler’s food acceptance as they are often hesitant to try new things. If your child rejects food, don’t make it a big deal. Try again in another day or weeks.

Here are some suggestions on how to make your child’s food easier to eat:

  • Place your toddler in a secure chair at a comfortable height.
  • Use a child-appropriate spoon and fork with non-sharp prongs.
  • Make a few foods moist and soft.
  • Cut your toddler’s food into bite-size portions.
  • Use ground meat rather than chops or steak.
  • Serve foods that are at room temperature.

How to prevent your child from choking:

  • Keep your child seated while they’re eating.
  • Avoid foods that are tough to chew and swallow, such as jelly beans, raw carrots, nuts, peanut butter, and gumdrops.
  • Slowly incorporate more difficult-to-chew foods.
  • Always supervise your child during their mealtimes.
  • Modify high-risk foods such as cooking carrots until they’re soft and cutting grapes and hotdogs in quarters.

Healthy Food Options

MyPlate is a nutritional food guideline made to assist parents and toddlers with eating a healthy diet. It centers on consuming different varieties of food along with encouraging the proper amount of fat and calories. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA have developed the food plate as guidance for the parents in choosing foods for children who are two years old and older.

The MyPlate guide is divided into five food groups, highlighting the dietary intake of the following:

  • All fruits and 100% fruit juice are a part of the fruit group. You may serve frozen, fresh, dried, or canned fruits, and you can also puree, cut up, or serve them whole. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests restricting juice intake to less than 4 ounces every day for children 1 to 3 years old.
  • Diversify your vegetables. Pick a mixture of colorful vegetables. Include orange, red, and dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, and legumes (beans and peas).
  • Foods made from rice, wheat, barley, cornmeal, another cereal grain, or oats are grain products. Examples include oatmeal, whole-wheat, and brown rice. Go for primarily whole grains.
  • Choose lean protein such as low-fat or lean poultry and meats. Alter your protein routine. Choose more nuts, fish, beans, peas, and seeds.
  • Milk produce and several foods produced from milk count as part of the dairy group. Focus on low-fat or fat-free products, as well as those that have high calcium levels.

Oils aren’t a food group, although some contain required nutrients you can include in the diet. Limit your toddler’s animal fats intake.

Include your daily exercise and physical activity with a nutritious dietary plan.

Here are some nutrition and activity tips to follow:

  • Choose foods with the following nutrients if possible: potassium, calcium, fiber, and magnesium.
  • Try to establish where and when your child eats food by keeping regular everyday mealtimes. Provide your toddler with model healthy eating habits and social interaction.
  • Get children involved in choosing and preparing meals and guide them in making healthy choices by helping them pick foods according to their nutritional value.
  • It’s highly encouraged to stick to the suggested serving sizes for children.
  • Toddlers need at least an hour of moderate to strenuous physical activity on most days for better health, fitness, and healthy weight while growing.
  • You must try limiting your child’s screen time to not more than 1 to 2 hours every day. Alternatively, promote activities that demand more movement.
  • Encourage your child to drink fluid regularly during physical activity to prevent dehydration. Have them drink several glasses of water or other fluid after performing the physical activity.
  • Reduce your consumed number of calories. Manage the portion sizes and eat nonprocessed foods to increase nutrients and limit calorie intake.

Daily Nutrient Guidelines for Children Ages 2 to 4:

For girls:

  • Fruits- 1-1.5 cups
  • Vegetables- 1-1.5 cups
  • Protein -2-4 ounces
  • Dairy-2-2.5 cups
  • Calories-1,000-1,400, depending on activity level and growth
  • Grains-3-5 ounces

For boys:

  • Fruits-1-1.5 cups
  • Vegetables-1-2 cups
  • Protein-2-5 ounces
  • Dairy-2-2.5 cups
  • Calories-1,000-1,600, depending on activity level and growth
  • Grains-3-5 ounces

Always check with your toddler’s registered dietitian or doctor regarding their exercise needs and healthy diet, or if you have questions or specific concerns about your child’s diet and nutrition.