PARENTING ZONE: Toddler Nutrition Made Easy

Posted by queenmadison

By toddlerhood, children are ready to try a variety of new foods. How can you help little eaters get the most out of their meals?
Children are introduced to solid foods at about six months old, and in the following 18 months will learn plenty about what they eat. First it is just swallowing solid foods, then lumps, picking up pieces, chewing (or gumming), and much more. It takes a great amount of coordination, muscle development, and motor skills for your little one to master these tasks. The best approach in helping your child learn how to eat is to take things slowly and wait for your child to give you signals he or she is ready. There is no need to rush this development process.
Breastfeeding Your Toddler
The fat and calcium found in breast milk, formula, and milk are essential for bone growth and brain development. While the body's requirement for fat reduces dramatically after two years of age, the calcium requirement gradually increases through adolescence.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends mothers breastfeed until a baby is 12 months old; and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until your child is two years old.
If you decide to wean your toddler at 12 months, it is best to wean him or her to between 16 and 24 ounces of whole milk (preferably in a cup) per day, according to the 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) FITS Study (Feeding Infants and Toddlers). If you wean your child at two years, you should wean to 16 ounces of low-fat or non-fat milk (in a cup) per day. If your child is not being introduced to dairy products, it is very important that you introduce calcium-rich foods that will satisfy their calcium requirements.
Formula-fed little ones should switch from formula to 16 to 24 ounces of whole milk per day when they turn one year old. If you have not already done so, this is also a good time to transition from a bottle to a cup. At age two, switch from whole milk products to 16 ounces of low-fat or non-fat milk products per day.
Unless recommended by a healthcare professional, toddler formulas and toddler nutrition drinks are not necessary. Many of these beverages contain large amounts of fat and sugar and are high in calories

Food and Your Toddler
In the past three decades, the US Health Survey, National Center for Heath Statistics reports that the number of overweight two-year-olds has doubled. Hurried lifestyles, the abundance of processed foods, and the lack of focus by parents is creating unhealthy two-year-olds with poor eating habits and cheeks that are much too chubby. These alarming statistics should concern all parents. When your baby reaches a year old, you need to focus on some basic nutritional aspects to help you get on track for healthy eating.
Meal FrequencyYour toddler still has a very small tummy and a fluctuating appetite, so the AAP recommends small, frequent meals over fewer larger ones. Your little one should be fed four to six mini meals per day. Each meal should include a fruit or a vegetable, and you may want to vary proteins and grains throughout the day. Following the mini-meal concept means that you need to pay just as much attention to offering well-balanced nutritious snacks as you do the traditional meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Variety and Serving SizesOver the past 20 years, restaurants and food companies have been increasing the amount of food contained in a serving. These larger serving sizes are considered to be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity; children eat more when portion sizes are larger.
As toddlers begin eating grown-up food, they might also develop grown-up eating habits, such as too much junk food and too few vegetables. It is important to pay attention to your child's eating patterns and to remember that the ultimate key to a balanced diet is variety.
According the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the average two-year-old should be eating the following amounts:
Vegetables: 8 ounces
Fruits: 8 Ounces
Grains: 3 ounces
Proteins: 2 ounces
Dairy: 16 ounces milk/yogurt or 4 ounces cheese
To sum it all up a healthy approach to feeding your toddler is to offer small servings, many choices, frequently throughout the day.

Time-Saving Toddler Meals
Make meals in large quantities, in advance, and freeze them ice cube trays or small plastic containers. When it's time for a meal, simply defrost a few food cubes or a small container. Some toddler meals that freeze well are:
-Whole wheat macaroni and cheese with tomatoes and peas
-Ground beef (or firm tofu), spaghetti sauce and whole wheat elbow macaroni
-Burrito filling made from beans and mild enchilada sauce. Defrost and roll filling in a flour tortilla.
-Hash brown potatoes with chopped broccoli or spinach. Defrost and serve with melted cheese on top.
Strive to have no-hassle healthy snacks on hand at all times.
-Frozen veggies (peas, carrots, green beans): a small amount cooks up quickly
-Fresh fruits (blueberries, peaches, strawberries, grapes): avoid hard fruits (unless they are cooked), and cut the fruits into small pieces; grapes should be quartered.
-Whole grain cereals (puffed wheat, Cheerios)
-Rice cakes and whole grain crackers
-Yogurt
-Semi-hard cheeses (cheddar, Jack, provolone) cut into cubes of thin slicesBake healthy foods for your family.

Most baked goods freeze great and defrost quickly:
Make cookies with real fruit or fruit juice. Do not make large cookies; keep them small. For toddlers, two cookies are much better than one, no matter what the size.
Add shredded carrots or zucchini, or pureed pumpkin to muffins and sweet breads. Consider buying a mini muffin pan or slice the quick bread loaf in half longwise and then slice it into pieces. Bake bread with whole wheat flour.