Ask any mother about her toddler and she will definitely express concerns about her/his eating habits. Child’s health is the mother’s primary concern and is the one thing that literally makes or breaks her day! Most mothers struggle during feeding times which are undoubtedly the most challenging parts of the day. It continues to elude experts as to why it is a perpetual problem faced by all parents and what is the SOLUTION
On the occasion of Child health Day 2016, we thought it will be nice to have some perspective on exactly how much does a toddler (1-3 year old) need.
The current portion sizes being offered are too large and hence as parents we develop a distorted view of appropriate portion for a child. Common understanding is that children can eat half the portion of what constitutes a normal serving for adults. So if we can/ should eat two medium chapattis at one meal, then we should not expect the toddler to eat more than 3/4th or 1 chapatti.
Trying to feed the toddler as much as adults only to match our expectation can be dangerous and detrimental to long term perceptions about food. We need to let the child decide how much they need to eat to feel full . 1-3 year old toddlers require only about 1000 kcal in a day
Here is how you can achieve the 1000 kcal target in a healthy and wholesome manner
5 servings of fruits and vegetables
1 ½ to 2 cups raw or cooked vegetables per day.
A standard serve is about 75g or:
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
- ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
- 1 medium tomato
- Make sure to offer one serving at every meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
- Children are more than happy to be offered a variety of vegetables
- Use of different textures is also intriguing for the child. For example, boiled carrot sticks, crunchy cucumber, mashed sweet potato, steamed broccoli, tomato dip , etc
1 -2 cups fresh, frozen, or dried fruit per day.
A standard serve is about 150g or:
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
- 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
- 1 cup diced fruit (no added sugar)
Or only occasionally:
- 125ml (½ cup) fruit juice (no added sugar)
- 30g dried fruit (for example, 4 dried apricot halves, 1½ tablespoons of raisins/ black currants)
- Juices may be given only when whole fruits are not available
- Limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day. Emphasize whole fruits rather than juice. Kids love melon balls, Mandarin oranges (fresh or canned in juice) and frozen berries.
It is important to remember that fruits and vegetables can also be a complete snack. For example, half a cup boiled sweet corn, 1 medium sized cucumber, ½ cup boiled peas, 1 whole orange , 1 medium apple, ½ cup pomegranate, ⅓ cup black currants, 2-3 dried dates/ figs, etc can be offered as a mid-morning or evening snack in school
3 servings of cereals/ grains
About 90-120g of grains per day, preferably half of them whole grains. One serving for the toddler will be
- one small chapatti (preferably made from jowar, nachni, or a mix of malted grains -amylase rich flour)
- ¾ katori khichdi/ vegetable dalia
- ½ cup cooked rice
- ½ cup cooked pasta
- ½ cup poha
- ½ cup vegetable /oats upma
- 1 small rawa/oat pancake/chilla
- 1 medium dosa
- 2 small idlis
About 3-4 such servings can be eaten throughout the day
- Cereal constitute the energy giving source but it is crucial to select wisely from this group.
- Bread, biscuit, cakes, rusks, etc are also cereal based but totally not worth counting within the 3 servings.
- Also, overemphasis on this group is also not very appreciated. Sometimes, parents think that without a cereal, meal is not complete and keep giving the same khichdi, rice dal, etc throughout the day.
- We suggest that cereals be given at the 3 main meals such as breakfast , lunch and dinner, while at other times, fruits, vegetables, nuts, milk products can be served as a wholesome snack.
3 servings of milk and milk products
2 to 2 ½ cups per day (400-500ml)
Whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2. Older children can have lower-fat milk and milk products.
A standard serve is :
- 1 cup or 250 ml low fat milk
- ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
- 40g home made paneer
- 2 slices (40g) of hard cheese, such as cheddar
- 1 cup (250ml) soy drink
In case the child is lactose intolerant , then there are other foods, which contain about the same amount of calcium as a serve of milk, yogurt, cheese or alternatives
- 100g almonds with skin
- 60g sardines, canned in water
- 100g firm tofu (check the label as calcium levels vary)
2 servings of proteins
Meat and Beans
2 to 3 ounces 60-90g per day.
A standard serve is:
- 65g cooked lean red meats
- 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)
- 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw) or one small can of fish
- 2 large (120g) eggs
- 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chick peas or split peas (preferably with no added salt)
- 170g tofu
- The importance of proteins should not be underestimated. Especially the vegetarian group has to make extra efforts to include dals/pulses at each meal
- Again, protein rich foods such as one boiled egg, ¼ cup roasted chana/ unsalted peanuts, dalia/peanut chikki, etc can be used as tasty snacks
Oils and fats
3 teaspoons of oil /ghee
- Despite the fact that toddlers can enjoy more quantities of fats they should be coming from healthy sources. Ex. vegetable oils such as rice bran , soybean, mustard seeds, olive oil, etc.
- Home made ghee is also a good source of healthy fats for the toddlers
- Often parents make the mistake of giving food containing the harmful fats so as to promote weight gain in lean children .
- So often food contain generous amounts of butter or cheese but these need to be consumed in moderation for toddlers as well .
- Also, bakery products contain the harmful trans fats and saturated fats and should be avoided.
Although all of these may also look like a long list, one can combine 2-3 food groups at one time such as idlis with grated carrots and cashews, coconut chutney prepared using dried fruits, pudina, peanuts, pulao with vegetables and soya granules, etc. Small frequent meals have to offered instead of only 4 large ones.
Innovation is they key to promote healthy eating and more so to develop “LOVE FOR FOOD”. Toddler should anticipate mealtimes and enjoy them. They will absorb and inculcate the food culture promoted and propagated by parents.So we need to be very careful and constantly be on high alert!
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.