Nutrients for Toddlers
Toddler nutrition is very important. It kind of sets the basis for healthy eating for the rest of their life. With childhood obesity on the rise it is very important to get a good start and good foundation for their eating habits and what they're eating early in life.
What should my toddler be eating?
As long as you're eating a healthy diet and a variety of different foods they should be eating exactly what you're eating. You shouldn't have to make anything separate for them. Toddlers can like broccoli and toddlers can like cauliflower. You just have to teach them how to like it and they get used to it. It will be one of their favorite foods.
When should I introduce new foods to my toddler?
Start early and you have to introduce them often because they aren't going to like it the first time. They aren't going to like it the second and certainly won't like it the third time. It might take 10 to 12 tries before they like it. You might have to offer it in different ways. A good example is sweet potatoes. You can offer it as sweet potato fries; you can make sweet potato chips, mash it or do lots of things with it. As long as they are getting that taste they'll eventually start to like it.
How should I deal with my picky eater?
Mostly it's maintaining the offering of a variety. Usually if they start getting picky the parents get into the habit of making their own foods for them. They don't want to eat it so we make them macaroni and cheese and then they only want mac and cheese. That's what they will eat because they haven't tried anything else in a long time. So, it's making sure you don't fall into those habits of catering to the picky eater.
There are certain picky eaters that you'll have to talk to your doctor about and they can address certain issues with them too.
According to Boys Town Pediatrics, children ages 1 to 3 need around 500 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Children ages 4 to 8 should consume 800 mg a day. Calcium is essential for the development of strong bones, teeth and muscles.
Just two cups of milk per day can fulfill the daily requirements (each cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium). However, if your toddler drinks more than three cups of milk a day, it may not leave enough room in his stomach for other essential foods his body needs.
Although parents should encourage their child to drink milk, some children will not drink enough milk or will refuse it completely. Good alternative sources for calcium for toddlers include:
- 1 ounce natural or processed cheese: 200 mg calcium
- 1 cup yogurt: 300 mg calcium
- 1/2 cup green, leafy vegetables: 100 mg calcium
- 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice: 160 mg calcium
Toddlers typically need 7 mg of iron a day to help make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying red pigment in blood cells. If a child consumes a little more iron one day and a little less the next day, the body will adjust, but if the child continues to lack iron, he or she may become anemic. Iron deficiency anemia can cause muscle weakness, fatigue and lack of brain development. Supplements or vitamins with iron are usually not needed if your child eats a variety of iron-rich foods. Good sources of iron for toddlers include:
- 1 ounce red meat, fish and poultry: 1 mg iron
- 1/2 cup iron-fortified cereal or oatmeal: 6 mg iron
- 1/4 cup beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, soy beans): 2 mg iron
- 1/2 cup greens (peas, broccoli, asparagus): .5 mg iron
- 1 large egg: .5 mg iron
- 2 tablespoons of dried fruits (raisins, apricots): 1.6 mg iron
If your child does not consume many of these foods, you may want to consider adding a toddler formula instead of cow’s milk or a multivitamin with iron. Talk with your child’s physician before you begin any supplements.
Your toddler needs 4,000 IU of vitamin A per day. Vitamin A is best known for improving vision, but it also helps fight off viral infections, repairs body tissues and maintains healthy skin, nails and hair. Vitamin A is found in animal products, but some fruits and vegetables, like carrots and bananas, contain carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A by the body. Good sources of vitamin A for toddlers include:
- 1/4 cup cooked carrots: 9000 IU vitamin A
- 1/2 cup cooked broccoli: 1080 IU vitamin A
- 1 medium wedge of cantaloupe: 2225 IU vitamin A
- 1 medium peach: 525 IU vitamin A
- 1 cup skim milk: 500 IU vitamin A
- 1 cup whole milk: 500 IU vitamin A
Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, fight off colds and infections, delay onset of diseases and heal cuts and bruises. A toddler needs just 15 mg of vitamin C per day, which is easy to do since so many foods contain this important nutrient. Good sources of vitamin C for toddlers include:
- 1/4 cup broccoli: 30 mg vitamin C
- 1/4 cup orange juice: 25 mg vitamin C
- 1 medium banana: 10 mg vitamin C
- 3 large strawberries: 21 mg vitamin C
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants, toddlers and adolescents receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day to help build strong bones, teeth and muscles. The body absorbs a great deal of vitamin D from the sun’s rays. The use of sunscreens and the daily smog can affect the amount of vitamin D we actually absorb from Mother Nature. Good sources of vitamin D for toddlers include:
- 1 ounce salmon serving: 110 IU vitamin D
- 3 ounces tuna (1 small can in oil, drained): 200 IU vitamin D
- 1/2 cup milk (whole, nonfat and reduced fat): 50 IU vitamin D
- 1/2 cup pudding (made from package with milk): 50 IU vitamin D
- 1 large egg: 25 IU vitamin D
- 1/2 cup fortified orange juice: 45 IU vitamin D