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Healthy Eating for Toddlers
Ora-Mari Olwagen

Children’s requirements for high-energy food are much greater than those of adults. Toddlers need about three times the amount of calories per kilogramme of bodyweight than that of an adult. Their stomachs are about one third the size of an adult stomach. A toddler’s diet should therefore include some foods high in fat and low in fibre. Aim to give three balanced meals with three nutritious snacks per day. Include food from these groups every day: starchy food, fruit and vegetables, milk products and protein food.

Starchy food includes cereals, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. These provide calories, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Give small amounts of fibre as it is difficult to digest and can interfere with the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron and calcium.

Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fibre. Many children refuse to eat cooked vegetables due to their texture, try raw sticks of carrot or even sweet potato!

Milk and dairy food provide protein, vitamins and minerals. Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth and vitamin A helps the body fight infections and is needed for healthy skin and eyes. Full cream cow’ milk is suitable as a drink from the age of one year. Semi-skimmed milk is not suitable as a drink for children under two years and skimmed milk not for children under five years.

Protein food like meat, eggs, fish, and beans are required with every main meal, and is essential for growth and development. Meat and fish contain zinc, which helps with wound healing and body processes.

Crush or flake whole nuts, to prevent chocking – especially for children younger than three years old. Avoid swordfish, shark and marlin; because these fish products contain high levels of mercury, which might affect a child’s developing nervous system. There is no need to add sugar or salt to your toddler’s food. Toddlers should be offered six to eight drinks per day from a beaker or cup. Pure fruit juices should be diluted one part of juice to ten parts of water and given after meals. It is better to give water or milk between meals. Do not give tea or coffee to toddlers as it reduces iron absorption.


Ora-Mari Olwagen, Pediatric Dietitian, 0793406821,ora@absolutenutrition.co.za,


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