You’ve devoted the first year of your baby’s life dedicated to feeding, changing, caring for and entertaining your bundle of joy. You may be surprised to discover that at the age of one, your baby’s appetite may slow down a little bit as he eats more solids and is no longer growing quite as fast as the previous 12 months.
After 12 months, you finally have an opportunity to feed your baby something other than the standard diet of breast milk or formula, rice cereal, and a few select fruits and vegetables. Hopefully, your little one isn’t fussy when it comes to eating.
The good news is that this is the year when you can introduce your baby to a whole new world of foods, flavors, textures, and delights.
The tips below will not only help you ensure your toddler is getting the right foods to help them grow and thrive in year one, but also develop important fine motor skills. Things are about to get messy, but you’re about to have the time of your life as you celebrate new experiences and milestones with your toddler.
Getting the Right Nutrients
As you introduce your little one to new food choices, they’ll discover that they prefer some foods to others, which can make good nutrition a challenge for you if you’re concerned about providing well-balanced diets to your toddler.
Florida’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program recommends a healthy variety of foods each day for toddlers between the ages of 12 and 24 months that includes the following:
- Two ounces of protein
- Three vegetable servings (0.25 to 0.50 cups per serving of cooked, chopped vegetables or 0.50 cups of 100 percent vegetable juice)
- Four servings of dairy daily
- Six servings of grains
- Three servings of fruit
- Three teaspoons daily of healthy fats
If your toddler is like most toddlers, they’ll begin developing their own ideas about what to eat. The key is to consistently offer healthy meals and snacks while limiting foods that aren’t as good for your toddler to eat.
Should You Avoid Feeding Your Toddler Certain Foods?
It wasn’t very long ago that the general consensus was to avoid offering foods like eggs, milk, fish, or even peanut butter to toddlers for fear of them developing food allergies. The current recommendation is to discuss concerns you may have with your physician, especially if you have a family history of food allergies, but there has been no evidence found to suggest that consuming these foods at a young age contributes to developing allergies.
There are, however, plenty of foods you might want to hold off on introducing to your toddler. Those foods include foods that may pose a choking hazard. One of the biggest offenders is hot dogs.
If you’re going to feed your toddler foods, like hot dogs, make sure you cut them into bite-sized pieces and portion them out one bite at a time rather than offering a full portion all at once. The same is true of grapes and cherry tomatoes. They may look like bite-sized pieces for most of us, but for your toddler, they are much more than a mouthful. Other choking hazards to watch out for include:
- Crunchy Foods
- Nut Butters (if you give these to your toddler, Baby Center recommends spreading a thin layer on a cracker or mixing it with applesauce to thin it out)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Raw Vegetables
- Sticky Candy
- Sticky Foods
- String Cheese Sticks (like hot dogs, you can cut these into bite-size pieces and serve one piece at a time to reduce choking risks)
Tips for Feeding Toddlers
Now that you know a few foods to watch out for, it’s time to explore ways you can use meal times to promote better coordination and help your toddler improve his fine motor skills.
- Offer a spoon to your toddler and let him feed himself. However, if your toddler uses his fingers, don’t discourage it as this is an important part of development too, even if mushy fruits vegetables are involved. The key is to allow your toddler to feed himself.
- Serve milk in a cup, with meals, rather than a bottle.
- Make trying new foods an event so your child sees it as something exciting and not something to be feared or dreaded.
- Encourage, but don’t force, your toddler to try new foods and at least take one bite of all the foods offered, but don’t try to force him to clean his plate. Let him determine when he’s had enough.
Developing healthy appetites in young children begins at this critical stage. These tips will help you show your toddler how exciting trying new foods can be.