Filling a Toddler’s nutrition gaps

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  • Learn about common nutrition gaps in a Toddler’s diet and what you can serve to avoid those gaps.

To better understand Toddlers’ eating habits and nutrient intake, Nestlé sponsored the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2008. By knowing what Toddlers are really eating, we can better guide their food choices.

These are some common nutrition gaps we found.

Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. A diet high in fruits and veggies is important for healthy growth and development.

Nestlé FITS 2008 found that on a given day, 25% of Toddlers 12 to 24 months don’t eat a single distinct portion of fruit and 30% don’t eat a single distinct portion of vegetables.

How to get it: Feed your Toddler 1 cup of fruit and ¾ cup of vegetables every day. Fruit and vegetable servings can be from fresh, frozen or pureed canned foods, but need to be cut up into small, easy-to-eat pieces. Remember you can still serve purees in Toddler-favorite foods to add variety. For example, stir ¼ cup GERBER® 3RD FOODS® fruit baby food into plain yogurt or ¼ cup GERBER® 3RD FOODS® vegetable purees into rice.   

Cereals. According to Nestlé FITS 2008, about 60% of Toddlers between ages 12 and 18 months are eating adult, non-whole grain cereals during the day. But transitioning to adult cereals may not be best for your Toddler. These cereals may not be as rich in Iron as infant cereal and may be high in sugar.

How to get it: Continue to give your Toddler Iron-rich infant cereal, and remember she can be fed cereal at any time of day!

Sweetened beverages and desserts. There’s not a lot of room in your Toddler’s diet for foods that offer calories but not many nutrients. Nestlé FITS 2008 found that more than 70% of Toddlers consumed any type of sweet, dessert and sweetened beverage on a given day. Desserts, sweets and sweetened beverages can be high in calories compared to the micronutrients they provide, and can displace other nutritious foods in the diet.

How to get it: In place of sweets, serve your Toddler more nutritious options such as fruits, yogurt and cereals and snacks that are made with whole grains.

Fiber plays a big role in your child’s digestive health. However, Nestlé FITS 2008 found that on a given day, virtually no Toddlers are meeting the recommended daily intake of 19 grams of fiber.

How to get it: Every day offer whole grains, and fresh, frozen, pureed or canned fruits and vegetables that are the right size and texture for your child.

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps protect the cells in the body from damage. According to Nestlé FITS 2008, about half of year-old Toddlers are not getting the recommended amount of Vitamin E from the foods they eat.

How to get it: Foods that have Vitamin E include vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean), avocados, whole grains and some leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli). Fortified products like GERBER® GRADUATES® Lil’ Crunchies—Apple & Sweet Potato help maintain adequate intakes of Vitamin E.

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Potassium is a mineral that helps muscles work properly. According to Nestlé FITS 2008, virtually no Toddlers are meeting the recommended intake of Potassium in their diet.

How to get it: Potassium is found in many foods, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, yogurt, bananas and citrus fruits.

Healthy fats aid in growth and brain development. Fat also helps the body use vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, E and K. Nestlé FITS 2008 found that about 23% of Toddlers don’t eat the recommended amount of total fat. A Toddler’s diet should include about 30 to 40% of total calories from fat, preferably mono- and polyunsaturated fats like those found in fish, avocados, and foods made with vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oil. These healthy fats should replace the saturated fats found in high-fat dairy products such as butter, cheese and fatty meats such as hot dogs, bacon and sausages.

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. You can also serve GERBER® GRADUATES® Lil’ Sticks® meat and poultry sticks that have 70 mg Omega-3 essential fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) per serving.

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