Again I continue this mammoth topic of developing healthy eating habits in toddlers. If you’ve missed the first parts of this topic, you can catch up here…
- Part one – Developing healthy eating habits in toddlers is so important for growing healthy, robust children and laying a foundation for a lifetime of good health and love of whole foods. Read more here.
- Part two – I discuss understanding little ones new and changing tastes, knowing what to do when they fuss and also tips for when they are sick. Read more here.
- Part three – More tips including the transition from smooth to lumpy, introducing new flavours and textures & messy meals. Read more here.
It goes unsaid that toddlers need to eat foods that are nutritious and nourishing. They are growing and developing at such a rapid rate and adequate nutrition is the foundation for good health and wellness.
I have and always will work with my philosophy of making every mouthful count when I feed my kids (and myself). This concept is especially critical for children, as a child has a much greater requirement for nourishment than an adult, yet they have a much smaller capacity to be nourished. That is, there is only so much room in that tiny tummy of theirs which is why making every mouthful count is so essential.
First up, I just want to clarify what I mean when I talk about macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as these are the pinnacles for making every mouthful count.
Protein includes meat from animal sources, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds etc;
Carbohydrates include grains, fruit and vegetable etc;
Fats are fairly self-explanatory, oils, butter, coconut oil etc;
Of course, a food is not just one macronutrient, however generally, one nutrient is dominant. For example, meat is mostly protein but also a little carbohydrate and fat. Nuts and seeds contain proteins, carbohydrate, and fats. The simple fact though is that we need a range of macronutrients and micronutrients to thrive.
Macronutrients are the orchestra, micronutrients are the conductor and without a conductor, the song might not sound right. So when I think about the foods that provide the most bang for their buck, I look to foods that are nutrient dense (provide not only a macronutrient but a heap of micronutrients too). Most fresh whole foods do just this. Foods that are refined and processed, may be, for example, a great source of carbohydrate, but they will be lacking the nature given micronutrients lost in the process of refining or processing it.
Filling tiny tummies
In my experience, the main area that parents feeding toddlers venture astray is that they ‘fill’ their tiny tummies with starchy grains which yield energy-giving carbohydrate, but few micronutrients. A little whole grain is fine, just don’t overdo it. Grain also contains many anti-nutrients which bind and deplete many important minerals.
The reason why vegetables are so good for us is because not only do they provide us with energy-giving carbohydrates, they also represent a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial Phyto (plant) chemicals. So next time you reach for bread, crackers, pasta or another grain heavy food for your toddler, perhaps think of choosing little ones vegetables or some protein instead. Remember to add a little fat to the veggies also which increases the absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins.
Keep your food philosophy simple
Because we don’t want to be calculating and become strung up by the nutritional value of every food you or your toddler are ingesting, I tend to think of food in terms of how close it is to what nature intends, that is low HI (human intervention) foods. I trust that nature provides nutrients in a balance that our bodies can recognise and use (a whole lot more than a well-marketed food that advertises that it is ‘designed’ to meet children’s growing needs).
Once again vegetables, meat, fruits, legume, nuts, seeds, dairy etc; Also include as much dietary variety as possible, which is another way to really make sure all of you toddlers nutritional needs are met. By feeding them a range of nutrient dense foods, they will have no room and thus no desire for refined and processed foods.
In my next post on feeding toddlers, I will talk about ways to encourage them to develop a love of fresh, whole foods (including meat and veggies)! So stay tuned for more.