The toddler years are a time of transition, especially between 1-2 years, when they are just learning to eat solid food and accepting new tastes and textures. And at this age, their nutritional requirements have stepped up and so their nutrition is a very important and vital aspect of their lives.
As much as you would want your toddler to eat well and get the needed nutrients to be healthy and strong, you also need to be very careful not to put your child at risk of obesity. Depending on the age, size, and activity level of your toddler, he/she needs about 1,000–1,400 calories a day and so if you allow your toddler consume more than the required caloric intake, you are putting him/her at a risk of childhood obesity.
Although nutrition is not the only factor responsible for the development of childhood obesity, it is definitely very important. A child’s total diet and activity level play an important role in determining a child’s weight.
You can prevent childhood obesity by helping your child maintain a healthy body weight. This is possible by balancing the calories your child consumes from foods and beverages with the calories your child uses through physical activity and normal growth.
Ensure that your toddler eats foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can also help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, reducing calorie-rich temptations and ultimately looking for ways to make favourite dishes healthier.
The following are ways to encourage healthy eating habits for your toddler:
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
- Serve reasonably-sized portions.
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
You should also reduce the amount of processed and canned foods present in your toddler’s diet because most of the time, they contain a very high amount of sodium and are low in iron and fibre. While doing all this, it is important you lead by example and involve the whole family so that your toddler doesn’t feel left out.
Also, it is important to incorporate a level of physical activity in your child’s day to day life. Remember that whatever you incorporate in your child at an early age goes a long way in influencing his/her health long term.