It’s natural for parents have questions about their toddler’s eating habits, toddler nutrition and how they may potentially affect their growth.
In fact about a third of parents of young children are at times concerned about their child’s eating. Let’s take a look at some of the common concerns and how we can address them.
What about low fat foods?
Fat provides a rich source of energy (kilojoules/calories) as well as the fat-soluble Vitamins A, E, D and K and
essential fats. “Essential fats” means our bodies cannot produce them and we need to get them from our diet.
For infants, the main source of fat is human milk or infant formula. For toddlers, both milk and solid food
contribute fat to the diet. Milk provides a large part of the saturated fat in the diets of children over 2 years of
age. Saturated fat contributes to raising blood cholesterol levels.
So for most children it is recommended to:
- Continue human milk or start full cream milk as the main milk drink from 1 year of age.
- Use full cream dairy products until 2 years of age.
- Consider introducing reduced fat dairy foods from 2 years of age. Choose products that have
a low saturated fat content. Offer lean meats and use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils and
margarine spreads instead of butter.
Food at child care
Some parents return to work around their child’s first birthday or when their toddler starts day care.
Food served in child care centres can contribute significantly to the nutrition of children. Meals
and snacks should follow the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents.
Fit in as many breastfeeds as suits your work schedule – you may choose to breastfeed before and after work as well as before bed.
Alternatively, you can send expressed breast milk to the child care centre so that your child can be given human milk when you are not there.
Toddlers starting child care will be exposed to other children’s infections.
Children in child care who use dummies and bottles have many more infections than those who use a cup for their drinks. So switch to
a cup as soon as your child can manage. It is a bit messy at first but it has a number of health advantages.
Keeping your child well at child care
On average young children who attend child care get more infections than other children. The most common infections include the
common cold virus and diarrhoea caused by rotavirus. What can you do to help minimise the common childhood illnesses that your
child in care might pick up?
Children should have their own plates and cups. When communal food is served, carers should use tongs or serving spoons to serve
the food on each child’s plate. Washing hands is the most important way of preventing the spread of infections. Children and carers
should wash their hands after toileting and before meals.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which have been added to foods and drinks. Beneficial bacteria
like acidophilus and bifidus have been used in yogurt and fermented milks for thousands of years. More recently, probiotics like
bifidus have been added to growing up milk drinks, specially suited to young children from 12 months of age. Bifidus may help
guard your child’s digestive system from unfriendly bacteria which may be contributing to stomach discomfort.
Choking is a concern when young children feed themselves. The type and size of foods need to be chosen in accordance with
your child’s chewing ability.
- Do not give foods that can break off into hard pieces such as raw apple and raw carrot. These foods should
be grated or cooked, particularly for children under 2 years.
- Sausages, frankfurts and other meats should be cut into small pieces. Tough skins on frankfurts and sausages
should be removed.
- Popcorn, nuts, hard lollies, corn chips or other similar foods should not be given to young children.
What you can do to prevent choking:
- Always be with young children while they are eating.
- Show children how to chew well and not overfill their mouths.
- Make sure young children sit quietly while eating.
- Make sure that children’s mouths are empty before they start to play.
- Never force young children to eat as this may cause them to choke.
- Never give food to a child who is laughing, crying or upset.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Mothers should continue breastfeeding during and after the introduction of complementary foods. As babies grow at different paces, health professionals should advise the parents on the appropriate time when their baby should start receiving complementary foods.