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Your toddler needs a healthy, balanced diet to provide them with all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need. There’s no need to worry if your toddler seems fussy about what they eat though. It’s a perfectly normal part of growing up. 

Don’t forget that your toddler’s abilities and independence are coming on in leaps and bounds! So it’s understandable for their eating habits to be different from one day to the next as they go through these big changes. 

The has got some great tips to help you teach your toddler positive eating habits that will last a lifetime. Cover up with your Tidy Tot Long Length Coverall Bib and have fun exploring foods together!

How can I encourage my toddler to be a good eater?

It’s best to keep calm when your toddler is eating. Making mealtimes a positive experience, without conflict, will help him to develop good eating habits. 

Offer your toddler nutritious foods whenever you can but let him decide how much he will eat. It doesn’t really matter how much he has at each mealtime, as long as he’s eating enough across the week. Most toddlers will ultimately eat enough to meet their needs. So it’s unlikely he’ll let himself go hungry! 

Keep to regular meal and snack times, taking into account your toddler’s daytime nap. Offer three meals and two or three small, nutritious snacks each day. Give your toddler a drink with his meals and snacks, too. Water is ideal, but milk or diluted fruit juice (10 parts water to 1 part juice) also work well.

Ideas for good snacks are: 

  • fruit
  • halved cherry tomatoes
  • cubes of cheese
  • yoghurt with berries or fruit slices
  • a small sandwich
  • toast soldiers with egg
  • vegetable sticks or breadsticks with hummus
  • a fruit and milk smoothie
  • a pancake with a cup of milk

If you offer your toddler a main meal just before his nap, he may be too tired to eat. Give him a small snack or drink instead and save the meal for when he wakes up. 

Space his snacks evenly between meals. That way, he’ll have the energy to fuel all that learning, playing and exploring. 

Try to make family meals interesting and fun. It’s also fine to offer both a savoury and sweet course. This allows your toddler to eat an even wider range of foods, which will help him get all the nutrients he needs. Resist the temptation to use the sweet course as a reward for eating the savoury course though. 

Good ideas for healthy sweet courses include:

  • fruit salad with yoghurt
  • apple crumble, made without too much sugar, and custard
  • rice pudding with stewed pears
  • a pancake with some fruit slices, dried fruit or berries

Try to eat with your toddler as often as you can. This may be difficult if you and your partner both work full-time and your toddler eats a lot of his meals at nursery or with his childminder. But you’re still his biggest role model. Try to eat together whenever it’s possible. If he sees you eating healthy food, he’s more likely to want to give it a try himself. 

Keep family mealtimes relaxed and positive. Sit down at a table where possible. Turn off the television and clear away toys so you can all focus on eating and chatting. 

Encourage your toddler to eat by making positive comments about your own food . He’s more likely to give something a go if he sees you enjoying it first.

You’ll soon learn your toddler’s favourite flavours and textures. For example, he may be happy to eat minced meat, but turn his nose up at meat slices. He may also prefer it if different types of food are kept separate on his plate. Or he may not enjoy foods that are difficult for him to chew. 

Respect his preferences, but don’t cook him a completely separate meal from yours. Offer him the same foods that everyone else is eating whenever you can, but make sure at least one of the foods is something you know he likes. His tastes will change over time, so it’s important to keep offering your toddler all kinds of different flavours and textures. 

What foods should I offer my toddler?

Each day, offer a variety of foods from the four main food groups: 

  • starchy carbohydrates, such as cereals that are low in sugar, pasta, rice, couscous, and a mixture of white and wholemeal bread
  • fruit and vegetables
  • foods high in iron and protein, such as fresh, high-quality meat, fish, eggs, beans, and lentils
  • dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and yoghurt

Try not to worry if he doesn’t eat something from each of these food groups every day. As long as he’s getting a good variety over the week, he’ll be doing fine.

Are there any foods I should limit?

Only offer small amounts of the following as a treat:

  • foods high in fat and sugar, such as cakes and biscuits
  • sweets and chocolates
  • salty foods, such as crisps, ready meals, and takeaways

It’s also best to take care with foods that can cause allergic reactions, such as peanuts. If your toddler has asthmahayfever, or a food allergy, talk to your GP before offering him products containing peanuts. 

However, if you and your partner have no family history of any allergic problems, it should be fine to offer your toddler a slice of toast and peanut butter. Some studies suggest that the earlier your child is exposed to peanut products, the less likely he may be to develop an allergy. The evidence for this isn’t conclusive though. If you’re in any doubt, speak to your GP. 

Are there any foods I shouldn't give my toddler?

Yes, there are some foods that you shouldn’t offer to your toddler:

  • Raw or partially cooked shellfish and some eggs can cause salmonella food poisoning. If you offer shellfish, make sure it’s well-cooked. British Lion-stamped eggs have a very low risk of carrying salmonella bacteria, so these are safe for your toddler to eat runny or raw. If you’re unsure what type of eggs you have, cook them until the yolk and white are solid.
  • Whole nuts may cause choking. You shouldn’t give whole nuts to children under five years, as they’re particularly likely to choke on small, hard objects. Instead, you can blend or chop them, and add them into your toddler’s foods.
  • Anything with added sweeteners. Although these may seem like a good alternative to sugar, they can also encourage a sweet tooth.
  • Fizzy drinks can damage your toddler’s teeth, and they’re often packed with sugars and sweeteners.
  • Tea and coffee contain caffeine, which isn’t good for your toddler. Caffeine also reduces the amount of iron that he can absorb from the food he eats.
  • Large fish that live for many years, such as shark, swordfish and marlin, may contain high levels of mercury and should not be given to children. Most other types of fish are fine, but limit oily fish to once a week or twice a week.

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