As a mother, we all know that children have different needs at different stages of growth. However, one thing recommended for all ages is to serve warm cooked meals with no ice- cold foods or drinks, and no carbonated drinks as these disrupt digestion.
A recent study of 42,000 women showed that eating a balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low- fat protein reduces risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. It’s not just specific food type but a balanced diet as a whole that creates good health. And if it is important for adults, it is even more essential for children, who are turning food in bones, muscles and brain cells at a much faster pace.
It is a good idea to introduce a wide variety of new foods over time. Children in the age bracket of 1 – 3 year need to eat when they are hungry, so plan to serve several meals throughout the day. They burn up the calories very quickly as their small stomachs do not hold much and their metabolism runs much faster. At age one, you can move gradually towards a schedule of three meals a day with substantial and nutritious snacks during mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Food to be added in your toddler’s diet
Cereals and Grains – As you feed your child grains make sure that you feed more whole grains than other processed grains as whole grains are healthier. Few grains for your toddler include Barley, Brown Rice, Oat Flour, Oatmeal, Whole- Wheat Bread, Whole Wheat- Pasta and Rice.
Hot cereals are wholesome and ideal for breakfast, such as cream of rice, cream of wheat or couscous. You can cook them with milk if the child’s digestion is good, otherwise use water. Corn cereals should be avoided as they increase obesity and even contribute to diabetes.
For lunch, you can serve vegetable upma, small chapattis, softly cooked rice or well cooked wheat pasta. For dinner, you could serve whole grain such as bulgur wheat, quinoa or couscous cooked with small amount of ghee or clarified butter. Vegetable soup that contains grain such as barley or rye is also a good way to serve grains at night. Although plain rice is a bit heavy for evening, a simple rice preparation like pilaf or pulav with cumin seeds and turmeric is a more digestible combination.
Mung bean, red lentil, pigeon pea and black gram are an ideal source of protein and are highly recommended for infants and toddlers. Peas and string beans are difficult to digest and hence should be given to your babies only after they’re at least 1 ½ years to 2 years old or have teethed fully.
Vegetables – Yams, Zucchini, carrots, bottle gourd, chard, asparagus and a variety of other well cooked and seasoned vegetables are good. Asparagus is especially very healthy and digestible. It is important to feed potassium rich foods like beets, spinach, tomatoes, winter squash, white potatoes, white beans, etc. Vegetable soup are a light and nourishing choice for the evening meal.
Fruits: Pomegranate is especially good for teething, it prevents diarrhea and colitis. Grapes, ripe mangoes, sweet oranges and apples are also healthy for children of this age. The aim should be to introduce as many fruits as possible during this age. Try to serve fruits in the first half of the day for better digestion.
Dairy – Milk, fresh yogurt, butter milk, cottage cheese, cheese and ghee are a must in the toddlers diet. Ghee can be used to sauté vegetables and in cooking soups and grain. This is not the time of life to limit healthy fats and your child will need as much as three cups of whole milk daily. As your kid gets older, he will naturally crave fewer fats. Also, the fats are very important for your toddler’s brain and eye development.
Although the points above offer you guidelines for food that should be introduced to your toddler but the foremost principal in choosing food is to respect the likes and dislikes of your tod. Children tend to be more innocent in following their internal signals. As much as possible, serve food that your child likes and chooses.