7 simple ways to help your growing Toddler eat healthy
Even if chicken nuggets and french fries are your child's favorite foods, he can still learn to love a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats/poultry, fish, and other nutritious foods. There are lots of ways to improve his diet. Here are a few ideas.
- Add a little fish
Fish is a source of high-quality protein, and some even have healthy omega-3 fatty acids. When making fish for your toddler 2+, choose canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, or catfish. Children can have up to 12 ounces per week of these fish or others that have been shown to be low in mercury. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish—they have high levels of mercury.
- Go for colorful veggies
Did you know that based on a recent study, nearly one-third of young children didn't get a single serving of vegetables on a given day? It's true! Yet Toddlers 2+ actually need 1 cup of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables per day. Your child's daily diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on nutrient-rich dark-green, leafy vegetables, deep-yellow vegetables, and colorful fruits. Serving your child vegetables in a rainbow of colors will give him a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Here are a few examples of colorful vegetables to try:
- White: soft-cooked white potatoes or cooked cauliflower
- Yellow: soft-cooked summer squash or cooked corn
- Orange: mashed sweet potatoes or soft-cooked carrots
- Red: diced fresh tomatoes or diced, cooked red sweet peppers
- Green: soft-cooked green beans or finely chopped romaine lettuce
- Purple: soft-cooked purple cabbage or eggplant
- Don't go overboard on beverages
Milk is an excellent source of bone-building calcium for your child, but giving your child more milk than is recommended may leave him less hungry for other nutritious foods. The recommended amount of reduced-fat milk (2%) for him is 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) per day.
In addition to milk, 100% fruit juice and water are also good beverage choices for your child. But, as with milk, don't let your child fill up on juice. Toddlers 2+ shouldn't have more than 4 to 6 fluid ounces (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) of 100% fruit juice per day.
- Consider both dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium
If your child doesn't like milk, make sure his diet includes other sources of calcium, such as yogurt or cheese. If he is sensitive to lactose, there are numerous non-dairy calcium sources available, such as tofu, white beans, broccoli, collard greens, and canned baked beans. Many foods also have calcium added to them, including orange juice, breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, breads, and soy milk.
- Limit sweetened foods
Babies are born with a natural preference for sweet tastes. So it's no surprise that many Toddlers 2+ love cookies, candy, and other sweetened foods. Nutrient-dense, age-appropriate foods, such as fruit (peeled and diced before serving), vegetables (cooked, peeled, and diced before serving), yogurt, and cereal, are good alternatives to sweetened foods and can help establish healthy eating habits at an early age.
- Keep your kitchen healthy
Go through your kitchen and replace sugary sweets and salty chips with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Keep nutritious snacks on hand, like whole-grain crackers, dried fruit snacks made with real fruit, yogurt, and canned or fresh fruit prepared specifically for toddler 2+ developmental needs.
- Keep these nutrients in mind
Many older Toddlers do not get the recommended amount of vitamin E, fiber, or potassium each day. Here are some foods that provide these nutrients:
- Vitamin E: avocados and foods made with canola, corn, or soybean oils, like salad dressings
- Fiber: fruits, vegetables, beans, brown rice, and other whole grains
- Potassium: bananas, orange juice, and cooked potatoes
Want to learn more about a toddler 2+ diet? Learn about nutritious foods, examples of serving sizes, and more for your preschooler with our Nutrition Guide and Menu Planner!