Are there gaps in your toddler's diet?
Toddlers have reputations for being picky eaters. Just remember to offer a variety of healthy foods, and limit intake of foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients—such as chips, candy and sugary drinks—that don’t leave much room for more nutritious choices. The Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) in 2008 revealed some common gaps in toddlers' diets. Here are some of those findings along with tips for getting healthy foods and nutrients into your little one's diet:
Fruits & vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of important nutrients. The FITS study showed that nearly 25% of toddlers 12 to 24 months don’t eat a single serving of fruit on a given day and 30% don’t eat a single serving of vegetables. And french fries are the most commonly consumed vegetable for toddlers 12 to 15 months and 21 to 24 months. HOW TO GET THEM: Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, pureed or canned.
Fiber is important for digestive health, but research found that virtually no toddlers meet the recommended amount on a given day. HOW TO GET IT: Giving your toddler plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help him meet his fiber needs.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps promote the health of cells throughout the body. According to the Nestlé FITS study, more than half of toddlers are not getting enough vitamin E from the foods they eat on a given day. HOW TO GET IT: Good sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils (canola and corn), avocado and fortified products.
Potassium is an electrolyte that helps muscles work properly. Unfortunately, no toddlers are getting the recommended amount of potassium in their daily diets on a given day. HOW TO GET IT: Good sources of potassium include yogurt, bananas, spinach and orange juice.
Fat is important for growth and development. But on a given day, 23% of toddlers 12 to 24 months have diets with less than the recommended 30 to 40% of calories from fat. HOW TO GET IT: Try preparing foods with fat like soy or canola oil that also have the omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid or offer condiments such as mayonnaise or salad dressings made with these oils. Remember to limit foods high in saturated and trans fats.
Learn more: Use our Menu Planner to create menus tailored to your toddler’s needs.