Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feeding Your Toddler

Your little guys or gals are up and at it now. Crawling is phased out and, before you know it, your toddler is running around everywhere. The hard part is getting your child to stop so you can feed her. What your child eats during the toddler years sets the tone for eating habits for the rest of his or her life. What she eats now will influence your child's meal and snack choices as adolescents, teenagers and adults. For that reason, parents must ensure that they select nutritious, wholesome food choices for their family and, most importantly, their toddlers.

Important Nutrients
Each meal should consist of at least 3 major food groups. The ingredients in those meals should include wholesome food items that help a child transition from breast milk or formula to solids. Parents should select lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats/poultry/fish and dairy food. Fiber, vitamin E, potassium, folic acid and vitamin B12 are crucial ingredients in a toddlers diet.

Variety is Key
Variety is the most important aspect of feeding your toddler. Early on in toddlerhood, your child should be exposed to as many different foods as possible, Fish, poultry, beef, vegetables, legumes, fruits, etc should all be introduced to help prevent a picky eater. Even if the parents don't eat it, if the food item is healthy and nutritious, your toddler should be introduced to it and be given the opportunity to see for him self if he likes it. It's also important not to say anything negative about a certain type of food in front of your children. If they hear you say something bad about a food, they'll believe it and will not eat it again.

Healthy Fats
Fat is a critical ingredient in your toddler's diet. It is necessary for brain and body development in general. Parents should include some fat in their child's diet in moderation. Making the right fat choices is important, especially in dairy products and oils. Parents should chose low fat dairy products, skim or low fat milk and vegetable based oils such a canola, soybean and olive.

Eating Skills
Some eating skills that parents should look for in toddlers is the ability to feed his or herself easily. Your toddler can start by using his or her fingers and, once he's mastered this, you can move on to eating with a spoon. It may be messy at first but eventually your little one will be a pro! After your toddler has almost a full set of teeth, experiment with textures and feed him a variety of textured foods. This will expose him to a variety of foods early on, hopefully preventing picky eaters in the future.

Hunger Cues
For the most part, your toddler isn't going to come up and tell you he's hungry (unless it's my daughter who says "Eat, me, peeeezzz"). So, instead of guessing when he or she is hungry, look for hunger cues. Some toddlers will use sounds, words or gestures to let you know they're hungry while others will simply throw a tantrum out of frustration. Look for signs early on and try to remember. Eventually, you can ask your child if he or she is hungry when you see hunger cues start up and help improve your communication.

Fullness Cues
Some kids will eat and eat and eat until they are uncomfortably full. They need help understanding when meal time should be over and at what point they should feel full. Others will give clues that they are donw eating and these are actions, words or gestures you should look out for. If your toddler says "no more" or asks to "get down" from the high chair, he is probably full and no longer wants to eat. Some cultures expect kids to clean the plate. For the most part, this is creating a bad habit and forcing your kids to eat past the point that they are full. Encourage your child to eat until he is satisfied and then stop. While this is true, they should not stop eating dinner but expect to eat a bowl of candy instead.

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