The ages of 1 to 3 years old are the toddler years. Once your baby reaches this stage, their growth starts to slow compared to their infancy. This can often show up as a decreased appetite, picky eating, or fussiness around mealtimes.
Yet their nutritional demands remain high—especially before a growth spurt. That’s why the pediatric providers at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Darien and Norwalk, Connecticut, offer nutritional guidance for toddlers and children of all ages.
If you’re concerned about your toddler’s nutritional needs, keep reading to learn our top nutrition hacks!
Whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are the foundation of good health at every age. You can give your toddler a boost by sneaking in fruits and veggies with healthy smoothies.
Try adding a small handful of tender baby spinach to the bottom of your blender followed by a piece of frozen banana. Toss in berries and add a spoonful of ground flaxseed for added protein, and blend with enough water to cover.
You can also use healthy milk, like fortified soy or oat milk, for extra calories and added nutrition. Avoid making smoothies with fruit juices, which are high in sugar, or cow’s milk, which blocks iron absorption.
Although your toddler’s needs for nutrients remains high, kids this age have small stomachs. Coupled with their slowing growth rate, which can cause a dip in their appetite, it can be challenging to meet their nutritional needs.
By packing high nutrition into bite-sized snacks and small meals, you can make sure your toddler gets the nutrients they need. For example, reach for protein-packed quinoa over white rice. And give your little one an energy boost by adding ground seeds or nuts to their favorite foods and sauces.
Look for healthy, whole food snack options. For example, in a food processor, try blending dates, dried (unsweetened) apples, nuts, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, then rolling them into toddler-sized snack balls.
Your active toddler needs to stay hydrated to ensure healthy development and avoid side effects from dehydration, like fatigue, nausea, and headaches. But many parents tell us that their toddlers simply don’t like water.
If you’re having a hard time getting your little one to drink water, it can be tempting to give them fruit juice or milk instead. But these beverages are generally high in sugar and calories, which could result in them taking in too many calories and not enough nutrients.
To help your toddler get hooked on water for life, give them water from an early age and lead by example. Offer water at every meal, and always have a water bottle on hand. You can add frozen fruits into their water to give it a different flavor, and try putting their water in a fun cup or water bottle to keep them interested.
When the mealtime toddler tantrums start, it can be easy to give them their favorite foods just so they eat something. But this habit actually fosters picky eating and makes it harder to meet the nutritional needs of your growing child.
Instead, try serving a new food next to familiar foods. Be sure to eat it first and show that you like it. And keep in mind that just because your child rejects a food once or twice, it’s not a sign they don’t like it. It can take up to 10 experiences with a new food for a toddler to accept it.
Try making new foods appealing by putting them on fun plates or cutting them into interesting shapes, like tofu stars or zucchini bears. Add delicious and healthy dipping sauces, like hummus, with new veggies to make them even more appealing.
Get your little one excited about foods and teach them to make healthy food choices by involving them in food selection and preparation. Have them help you pick foods high in nutritional value, and let them work with you in the kitchen to get meals and snacks ready.
While your toddler isn’t old enough to wield a knife, they can drop nuts into a recipe or help add fruit to the blender for their smoothies. You can even have them help you decide between two healthy options when planning your meals. And even the youngest child can help set the table.
Get personalized nutrition support for your toddler by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone with a nutrition expert at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics.