10 Tips for a Healthy Toddler

By Nancy Gottesman

One reason toddlers love the irrepressible Curious George so much is that they relate to him! To your 1- to 4-year-old, everything is exciting because inquiring toddler minds are hardwired to explore all they confront. Although their drive to discover is glorious to behold, it can also put them in harm’s way.

To help keep your tot on the straight and narrow, we have assembled the following 10 tips based on the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General’s “healthy list for toddlers.” The Surgeon General’s agenda is the same as yours: to keep toddlers safe and healthy without hindering their sense of wonder. “Remember, the greatest gift we can give a child is a safe environment,” concurs Rene Hopkins, R.N., coordinator of the nonprofit accident-prevention organization Safe Kids East Central at the Medical College of Georgia’s Children’s Medical Center in Augusta. Although he may not agree, Curious George could learn a thing or two from these tips, too!

Promote Healthy Eating

»Why it’s vital: “Childhood obesity is a tremendous epidemic,” cautions Seema Csukas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Child Health Promotion department and a pediatrician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “The earlier you introduce healthy eating, the better.” This means serving portions that are appropriate for a child—so toss out that ancient “clean-plate club” way of thinking. Your toddler will eat when she’s hungry, and when she’s not, she won’t, says Csukas.

Don’t fret about it. The USDA recommends that children age 2 consume 1,000 calories daily; at age 3, it’s 1,000 to 1,400 calories, depending on activity level; at age 4, 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily. Make sure your child’s daily dose of calories includes these nutritious foods: whole grains (think healthy breakfast cereals), fruits and veggies, and calcium-rich foods for growing bones. (Children over age 2 should consume two cups of skim or low-fat milk or dairy products daily; whole milk is recommended for children age 1 to 2.) Be sure to limit sugary foods and Juicy Juices!