Toddlers

Your toddler is growing very quickly, and no doubt is very active too! So he or she will need plenty of energy and nutrients. A healthy, balanced diet will provide all that your toddler needs.

Of course, little people have smaller stomachs, which means they might not manage much food in one sitting. If your toddler can’t manage set ‘meals’, then offer a number of nutritious snacks throughout the day instead.  

Under-twos

Children over the age of two can eat like the rest of the family, with a few exceptions. And there are a few little extras to keep in mind for the under-twos: 

  • Full-fat milk and dairy foods are best at this age. Children under two need the extra fat and vitamins in full-fat dairy products. Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced from two years of age, provided your child is a good eater and growing well. Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under five.
  • Wholegrain foods, such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice, should be introduced gradually. It's not a good idea to give only wholegrain foods because they may fill your child up too quickly so they don't get all the calories and nutrients they need.
  • Make sure to offer snacks between meals.
  • A higher-fat diet is ok for little ones – they need lots of energy.
  • Fruit makes a great snack, but try not to fill your toddler up on it.

Anything they should avoid?

Some foods are unsuitable for toddlers. Here are the reasons why.

  • Little girl having a healthy snack of chopped fruitRaw eggs: There is a risk of food poisoning from raw or partly cooked eggs. When giving eggs to toddlers, cook them until both the yolk and the white of the egg are solid.
  • Whole or chopped nuts: Nuts carry a risk of choking for children under five. Crushed or flaked nuts are okay.
  • Shark, Swordfish and Marlin: These fish contain levels of mercury that are unsuitable for toddlers.
  • Added sugar or honey: Toddlers don’t need sugar or honey added to their food. It will only give them a taste for sweet things and could damage their teeth.
  • Skimmed milk: Toddlers need lots of energy because they’re growing so quickly.  Semi-skimmed milk is fine for children aged two years and upwards. Skimmed milk is not suitable as a main drink until your toddler is five years old.
  • Sugary drinks: The best drinks for toddlers are milk and water. Sugary drinks like fizzy drinks and fruit squash can cause tooth decay because they’re high in sugar. If you do give them to your child now and then, keep them to mealtimes – it’s less harmful to teeth.

Breakfast

Get your little one into the habit of eating a daily breakfast and you’re setting them up for life! Children and teens who eat a breakfast are better able to concentrate at school and at play. And for many young people, it’s the most nutritious meal they’ll eat all day. Start the habit young and let them reap the benefits.

Be aware that your toddler could take a long time to eat his or her breakfast. You might need to get up a little earlier to fit it in. If you can’t fit it in every morning, maybe somebody else in the family could help. And if you can eat breakfast together as a family now and then – better still!

Good breakfast ideas:

  • Unsweetened breakfast cereal, slice of toast and a pear
  • Porridge, fromage frais and banana
  • Hard-boiled egg, toast and juice (diluted one part to 10 parts water)

Suitable drinks

Water and milk are the most tooth-friendly drinks for toddlers. They are suitable between meals and with meals. Watch that your child doesn't fill up on milk, or other drinks such as fruit juices, between mealtimes as it may affect their appetite.

Unsweetened fruit juice is a healthy choice, but it can damage little teeth when taken on its own. If you do give your toddler juice, keep it to mealtimes, and always dilute it one part juice to ten parts water.

Fizzy drinks, sugary squashes, tea and coffee are not suitable for young children. If you do want to give a squash drink to your toddler now and then, choose a tooth-friendly version, and dilute it with plenty of water.

Children over one year old should take their drinks from a beaker or feeding cup rather than a bottle - it’s better for their teeth.

Fussy eaters

Many children go through phases of refusing certain foods. At times, they might not take anything at all! But don’t panic - this is actually quite normal. If your child seems healthy and is reaching his or her weight and height goals then there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Healthy toddlers may refuse food because they are:

  • looking for attention
  • trying to show their independence
  • or just want to feed themselves (which is great!)

Make sure they’re not refusing food because they’re filling up on sugary snacks or drinks between mealtimes. If you think this could be the problem, avoid giving drinks for an hour before meals, and only offer a drink at the end of their meal. 

Children are easily distracted by the television. Make sure that it’s switched off at mealtimes.

Sometimes, your child will reject a food the first few times you offer it, but will come around to it eventually with lots of encouragement. Your child may need to try a food 8 to 10 times before they like it, so try not to give up easily! 

Of course, if your child refuses point blank to take something, it could just be that they don’t like it. Children, like the rest of us, have their own food preferences. To get around this, offer your child another food from the same food group.

If your child refuses meat:

  • picture of a little girl turning her nose up at a bananaOffer boiled, poached or scrambled eggs instead
  • Offer baked beans instead
  • Try casseroles using pulses like lentils and chickpeas instead of meat
  • Try mincing the meat and serving it with a sauce or gravy 

If your child refuses vegetables:

  • Offer them vegetable sticks to munch on as snacks
  • Many children prefer fruit, so give an extra piece of fruit instead
  • Offer a cup of diluted unsweetened fruit juice
  • Blend up vegetables, and try to disguise them in meals and soups
  • Mash boiled cauliflower into potatoes
  • Call it something interesting. Young children can be persuaded to try almost anything if it has a fun name – princess pie, fisherman’s lunch, etc.

If your child refuses milk:

  • Give them yoghurt or fromage frais as a snack
  • Use milk to make sauces (like cheese sauce)
  • Add grated cheese to their potatoes or pasta dishes
  • Give cheese cubes as a snack
  • Try milk-based desserts like custard or rice pudding