If your toddler picks and prods at his food and only wants snacks and sweets, it’s only natural to worry if he's getting the nutrients he needs. It’s easy to get off track and give in when your schedule is hectic, says Danielle Shea Tan, a certified health coach based in Boston, Massachusetts. However, providing a toddler a well-balanced and varied diet chock full of vegetables, vitamins and healthy proteins is possible even with a busy routine and a picky eater.
A toddler's plate should include foods that will aid his physical growth and development, says Shea Tan. The best choices include healthy proteins and fats found in free-range chicken, organic eggs, dairy, meat and beans. These foods are critical for growing bodies and developing minds, she says.
Healthy carbohydrates are vital for your toddler to maintain his energy. A child can get them through a mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates like those in melons, oranges and blueberries. Milk is also critical as toddlers between ages 1 and 3 need 500 to 700 milligrams of calcium, according to Kimberly Marsh, a registered dietitian based in Denver, Colorado. Rolled oats, brown rice and whole grain breads can also help with bowels and reduce those tummy aches.
Health Prevention Foods
Your toddler may scrunch his nose up at the sight of a carrot or celery stick, but these veggies are essential for his health. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and phytonutrients. “These nutrients support your child in living a vibrant, healthy life that isn’t laden with chronic issues like ear infections and constipation,” says Shea Tan. If your toddler is resistant to radishes, lettuce and cauliflower, you can dress them up with healthy dips.
Toddlers may have difficulty accepting meat or dairy, which ultimately affects their intake of iron, zinc and calcium, according to Vandana Sheth, Los Angeles-based registered dietitian. Sheth recommends serving foods like cream of wheat, fortified cereals, beans and lentils, to make up for any iron deficiency. Iron is found in dairy items such as yogurt, cheese and calcium-fortified juice.
One of the biggest concerns of parents is that their toddler is a picky eater, says Sheth. “It may seem like there are days when all your child is living on is cereal and air when going through a picky eating phase,” she says. At this point, rather than resorting to force feeding or bribing your child, Sheth suggests you keep serving regular meals and nutrient-rich snacks. She also suggests you right yourself so your child ultimately picks up your healthy eating habits.