Toddlers between the age group of 1 to 3 years go through a lot of developmental changes. It can often get challenging for parents to feed them healthy food and manage daily nutrition. There aren’t any strict rights or wrongs however there can be certain choices that can make the meal time pleasant for both the child and the parent, while keeping it nutritious too.
Toddlers need roughly 1000 calories a day. They need healthy food packed with nutrients namely some key ones like calcium, vitamin C, D, Iron (which are mostly found deficient too!) within those limited calories. For instance, handing over a cookie with 100 calories will take away your chance of feeding Iron to your child through a bowl of spinach soup. Certain informed choices will have to made to ensure that the calories are full of quality in the early years.
Studies suggest that kids under 2 years of age should have no consumption of sugar. The reason is that sugar directly results in weaker bones. Calcium combines with phosphorous to make calcium phosphate which is most important component for our bones. When sugar is consumed, there is an acid that’s released in the body. In order to balance this acid, calcium is extracted from the bones resulting in Calcium deficient weaker bones and easy fractures. Vitamin D assists in absorption of Calcium by the bones. Consumption of sugar increases an enzyme that degrades vitamin D and thereby also results in reduced absorption of calcium by the bones. Double whammy! Vitamin C helps to make collagen and also delays the decaying process of bones. Sugar intake restricts the absorption of this vitamin into our body cells resulting in weaker bones. Magnesium works on keeping the bones strong. Sugar strips the body of magnesium too by releasing it out through urine.
Toddlers are busy growing and crossing new milestones. Along with their body, their observation and admiration is also increasing. They are trying and accepting new food flavours. As a parent, it is imperative to present healthy food options which are not detrimental to the child’s growth, mainly bones. A study states that kids in India (and worldwide) tend to consume double the recommend limit of sodium in their diet. When sodium intake becomes too high, the body gets rid of sodium via the urine, taking calcium with it, which depletes calcium stores in the body resulting in weaker bones. Every bite matters and should be chosen wisely!
As a parent some key tips to keep in mind:
- The sooner the transition from baby food to family food happens, it not only makes life of the parent much easier but also prepares the child to try varied textures and tastes. Early introduction of healthy food is necessary for growing kids. Nutrient deficiency can directly impact digestion, bones and brain development of the child. The impact of these are carried on forever. Hence, every bite the child takes should be loaded with goodness (and taste!).
- For ideal nutrition intake the child should be served variety of healthy food preferably in the format he or she loves to eat. It is not only liberating but also time saving for the parents to share the same meal with the child as he/she is eating. It is observed that it’s not the healthy food that makes a child fussy but the food format. If a child is given healthy food in his/her favourite format in their early years, then they learn to eventually pick up and enjoy those vegetables, fruits and nuts without much fuss. For example, if a child loves fries, then baking sweet potato or carrot fries with favourite seasoning is a no brainer.
- Kids do as their parents do. They copy! Sharing and eating appealing, tasty healthy food with the child, makes the whole process of feeding not only simple but also pleasant. Food preferences are formed early in life. The onus is on the parent as to what options does he/she serve to the child. Serving child-friendly food will most likely make the child habitual to less spice, easy to chew, limited food options. These habit forming preferences only becomes firmer with age resulting in either higher consumption of processed food (like cookie, fries etc) or a separate meal preparation at home (which can get frustrating eventually).