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Ten steps for healthy toddlers

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    The toddler years are a time of rapid change. After your child's first birthday he or she may:

    • Show some food preferences – this might be for different textures, tastes and colours
    • Like to feed himself or herself and be more independent
    • Show sudden changes in food likes and dislikes
    • Refuse to try new foods – this usually decreases as toddlers approach school age.

    The Infant & Toddler Forum have provided a practical, easy-to-follow guide on what food to offer, what behaviour to encourage, and how best to manage mealtimes. Try these ten steps for a healthy balance and a great start in life...

    1. Eat together as a family and make meal times relaxed, happy occasions.

    Make food easy to eat – finger foods are good. Eat the foods that you would like your toddler to eat. Praise your toddler when he or she eats well or tries something new – toddlers take time to learn to like new foods.

    2. You decide which nutritious foods to offer but let your toddler decide how much to eat.

    Never insist your toddler eats everything on his or her plate.

    3. Offer foods from all five food groups each day

    Together they give the right mix of nutrients your toddler needs.

    4. Have a routine and offer three meals and two to three snacks each day

    Offer two courses at each meal and only offer nutritious snacks. Don't allow grazing on food.

    5. Offer six to eight drinks a day

    Give all drinks in a beaker or cup – not bottles. 3-4oz or 100-120ml is about right. Water is a good choice.

    6. Give vitamins A & D each day

    Choose a vitamin supplement suitable for toddlers – most toddlers don't get enough in their food.

    7. Respect your toddlers' tastes and preferences - don't force feed

    Understand that some children eat almost everything while others are much more picky. Some like foods kept separate at a meal and others are happy with foods mixed in together.

    8. Reward your toddler with your attention - never give food and drink as a reward, treat or for comfort

    Make food easy to eat – finger foods are good. Eat the foods that you would like your toddler to eat. Praise your toddler when he or she eats well or tries something new – toddlers take time to learn to like new foods. 

    9. Limit...

    • fried food, crisps, packet snacks, pastries, cakes and biscuits to very small amounts.
    • sweet foods to four times a day e.g. as part of the three meals and one snack.

    ... and avoid

    • sweetened fruit squashes, fizzy drinks, tea and coffee.
    • undiluted fruit juices – only give juice well diluted at meal times.
    • whole nuts which may cause choking or be inhaled.

    10. Encourage physical activity for at least three hours every day and about 12 hours sleep

    All activity such as active play inside or outside, walking, running and dancing counts. Limit TV and other screen time like computers to just one hour a day.

    Article supplied by the Infant & Toddler Forum, ran by leading experts from paediatrics, neonatology, health visiting, dietetics, child psychology, midwifery and obstetrics, who specialise in early years nutrition and development.
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    Ten steps for healthy toddlers