With the beginning of the second year, the child’s meals get more and more integrated into those of the entire family. From now on, variety of ingredients and variety of presentations are on the menu.
Food is fun
The baby has become a toddler. Challenges remain, although they are changing in nature. With regards to nutrition this means that the requirements broaden and that you can start to expect some fussiness, especially with regards to healthy food. Many kids evolve into picky eaters. Parents therefore have to actively engage to get their kids excited about new foods. This can be a tricky process, but is an essential contribution toward the formation of healthy habits, and consequently to the healthy growth of the child. Here are some ways to get you started.
Learning by eating
As of the first birthday (or thereabouts) the child takes eating into his own hands, literally! Toddlers often want to take charge of the spoon when eating. These first independent attempts should certainly be supported, all the while not conceding control entirely in order to prevent continuous re-painting of you kitchen or dining room. Over time, and as if by magic, your child will learn to control spoon and fork with increased skill. Little molars are also starting to make chewing a lot easier. The conditions for autonomous eating are getting better and the child can start participating in family meals. Obviously, table manners will be all over the place and the table will resemble a battlefield. Nevertheless, the earlier you make eating fun, the easier it will be to foster good habits. Fun and variety first, manners later.
Remember, learning by doing… or rather…eating.
What was healthy before, during and after pregnancy is still healthy. More then ever, it is now important to get your child to enjoy his/her meals. For this, you will need creativity. It’s generally recommended to vary food as much as possible, particularly with regards to colour, shape and taste. It goes without saying that the right amounts of nutrients and appropriate energy intake are still key.
Easier said than done… At this age, growth is slowing and curiosity increasing. Said differently, your child will be less hungry and a lot more preoccupied about adventuring than about eating. You therefore need to make eating a little adventure in itself. As for adults, eating is not just about tastes, but just as much about appearance. We also eat with our eyes. For this there are countless tricks, from cutting your bread into exotic shapes to making faces out of vegetables. Be prepared that at this age, kids will prefer smaller portions as their tummies are still unable to handle large amounts of food. Instead you should always have some healthy snacks within reach. Thus, plan for about 5 meals a day: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and one snack around midday and one in the afternoon (e.g. fruit, raw vegetable, or even a puree). Don’t despair if your child ignores a complete meal, his appetite will make him eat when his body tells him to.
What’s good and what isn’t?
Essentially, during the second year the child can eat what the rest of the family is eating (but for heavily seasoned food). Brace yourself for a fair amount of mood fluctuations though. The preference for certain foods may be constant, but it can just as well happen that yesterday's favourite dish get’s wacked against the kitchen wall. Introduce new fruit and vegetable as often as you can, dried fruits can be a good option for this. Cabbage, beans and other bloating foods might want to wait a little longer. Click here to see when to introduce certain foods to your child's diet.
When your child is one, full fat milk is recommended since it supplies the child with plenty of energy and vitamins dissolved in the fat. As a rule of thumb, low fat milk should be introduced around 2 years of age. In any case, try and judge the energy requirements your child has, if necessary, consult your paediatrician. Whichever kind of milk you give, your child should drink at least 500ml – 600ml per day. Additionally, or alternatively, try other dairy products such as yoghurt or cheese.
Fatty food and sweets should be absolute exceptions. Most ready foods (such as frozen pizzas) include artificial flavours, fat, salt and sugar and can generally be considered counter productive to healthy growth. This year really is crucial to build a solid foundation based on preferences for healthy and tasty foods for a lifetime to come. The effort is worth it and can be loads of fun!