The Best Toddler Nutrition




By Nancy Gottesman

Ages 1-2 years

At 1 to 2 years old, your child has left baby foods behind and is likely beginning to feed himself. It’s at this stage when your baby needs nutritional guidance more than ever! According to the FITS report, French fries are still the most popular “vegetable” in this age group, while as many as 30 percent of all toddlers don’t eat any vegetables at all! This is unacceptable, pediatric nutrition experts say. “It’s a reflection of how the adults around them eat,” explains pediatric dietitian Ashley B. Hotle. To get your toddler (and you!) on the right diet track, heed these guidelines:

Dish up a fruit and a vegetable at every meal.
You can go the stealth route by chopping spinach into pasta sauce or pureeing cooked broccoli, carrots or caulifl ower into a dip served with crackers. But you don’t have to! A study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that you need to serve a spurned vegetable nine to eleven times before a child will accept it. Nine months after the study, the toddlers were still eating the initially disliked veggie. The lesson? Don’t give up after just one or two attempts.

Serve healthy fats.
The FITS found that 1- to 2-year-olds were not getting enough good fat in their diets. “Toddlers need fat for brain and eye development,” says Hotle. “If the fat content of their diet is too low, it probably means they’re getting too much energy from juice and processed carbs.” Good fats at this age include oily fish, avocados, nut butters, meat and whole milk. Switch your child to 2 percent milk when he is 2 to 3 years old.

Involve kids in the process.
“Toddlers will be more excited about eating food if they help you pick it out in the store or help you prepare it in the kitchen,” says pediatrician Alanna Kramer.

Limit sweets.
Treats should be just that—not a daily event! Do not serve dessert regularly, and keep juice intake to 4 ounces daily. “Water and milk are what their bodies need,” stresses Kramer.

Allergies on the Rise
The prevalence of food allergies in children under 18 years old increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to a new study in Pediatrics. Wait until your child is at least 1 year old to introduce the most allergenic foods: milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy and shellfi sh—unless there’s a family history of food allergies, says Alanna Kramer, MD. In that case, wait until he’s 2 or 3. Keep to the three-day rule (see “Solid Advice,” page 11) when introducing a new food, and always watch for a reaction. If your child develops a rash, call your pediatrician. If he starts to have diffi culty breathing, call 911. The good news: Most kids outgrow food allergies by the time they’re 4 to 5 years old.

Writer Nancy Gottesman is a regular contributor and healthconscious mother of 15-year-old Robby.