Looking back on your own childhood, you probably don’t have too many memories of throwing tantrums when you couldn’t have more broccoli at dinner time, and you probably didn’t beg your parents to put more lettuce in the shopping cart, either. But just because healthy eating takes a little extra effort sometimes, doesn’t mean that there aren’t easy ways to ensure that Baby gets a steady supply of a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals from his diet.
What does a balanced diet for a toddler look like?
A balanced diet for Baby includes toddler-sized portions of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and dairy. Even if Baby doesn’t always seem interested in food, good nutrition is still really important right now. Here are a few fairly simple things you can do to make sure Baby is getting all the nutrients he needs over the course of a day or a week.
- Offer foods from every food group at nearly every meal: As often as possible, offer Baby meals that include food from all the food groups. Over the course of a (usually busy) week, it can be hard to keep track of how much of a certain food Baby has been eating. Regularly offering Baby foods from all the different food groups helps ensure that he consistently gets the nutrients he needs.
- Serve a variety of foods within the food groups: Even two foods from the same food group can provide totally different nutrients. It’s fine to repeat foods – in fact, it’s unavoidable – but make sure to mix up the different kinds of foods from each food group that you serve Baby at meals. This can help him get comfortable trying new foods while providing him with an array of nutrients.
- Make checking sodium and sugar levels a regular thing: A lot of foods – especially prepared foods – are surprisingly high in salt and sugar. Try to make a habit of reading the nutrition labels on snacks or prepared food, and choose the option that has less sodium and sugar. Too much of either isn’t good for a developing toddler, and over time they can throw off a healthy diet.
- Become a snack machine: Over the course of a day, a good snack (or a bad one!) can tip the nutrition scale. Pre-portion and prepare Baby‘s snacks in the beginning of the day so that you have them on hand when he is hungry. Consider keeping the day’s snacks together so that Baby can pick out what he wants to eat when he is hungry. Some healthy snacks could include low fat yogurt, rice cakes, dried fruit, slices of fruit with unsweetened nut butter, or vegetables and hummus or guacamole.
- Add vegetables to different foods: A good way to ensure that Baby is eating a nutritious meal involves adding vegetables to foods in creative ways. This could involve anything from sauces with pureed veggies, cauliflower rice with cheese, macaroni and cheese with vegetables, or baking zucchini bread, among many, many others.
- More dining in, less dining out: Going out to eat can be easy and convenient, but restaurants and diners are notorious for serving larger-than-average portions of foods that are full of salt, sugar, and fats. It’s only natural that limiting the amount of meals that your family eats in restaurants or diners is a good “hack” for keeping Baby‘s and your diets balanced. Plus, it helps you save money, and makes the times that you do go out to eat that much more exciting.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Nutrition for kids: Guidelines for a healthy diet.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jan 16 2016. Web.
- “Balanced Diet Chart for Children.” MD-Health. MDHealth.com, Jan 20 2017. Web.
- “How can I improve my child’s eating habits?” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Jul 2014. Web.
- “Making sure your child is eating enough.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, Nov 21 2015. Web.