Kids

Practical Meal Plans and Healthy Foods For Babies And Toddlers

Toddlers and babies need food from five healthy food groups, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, proteins, and grains. Depending on the age group, there will be variations… Trista - June 29, 2020

Toddlers and babies need food from five healthy food groups, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, proteins, and grains. Depending on the age group, there will be variations in the food type, but the primary groups will always remain the same. Healthy food items have their share of nutrients within, which are essential for various things, including development, growth, and learning. A child must avoid food rich in saturated fat, sugar, and a high salt count. Furthermore, they should avoid food low in nutrients and fiber. Even caffeinated drinks that contain lots of sugar aren’t healthy for your kids.

Feeding babies and toddlers can be a perplexing process, especially when you are a new parent. There are many resources, tips, and tools to help guide you through the first few years of your child’s life. The five primary groups that are essential include vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein. Each food group has different nutrients, which a child’s body requires to grow and work properly. That is why children must eat a range of foods from all five food groups. Read on to learn about some healthy foods and meal plans for babies and toddlers.

Ensuring that your kids are eating healthy will keep them physically and mentally fit. Pixnio

Why Kids Need Fruits And Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables help provide your child with vitamins, energy, fiber, water, and antioxidants. They further help protect babies against future diseases like stroke, cancerous cell formation, and heart disease. It is always a good idea to provide your baby with vegetables and fruits. You should do so at every meal and even as snacks. Being a parent, it is mandatory to choose vegetables and fruits of multiple tastes, textures, and colors and take intensive care that everything is fresh. Remember to wash fruits to remove unwanted chemicals or dirt. Leave the skin of the fruits on them as skins have their share of nutrients as well.

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Children’s growing bodies require an enormous amount of good nutrition. Fruits and vegetables contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds. Citrus fruits and strawberries are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C. Carrots are loaded with vitamin A and spinach is an excellent iron source. Fruits and vegetables are vital for digestive health, improved nutrition, and help to decrease obesity. To increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, you can try shopping with kids to let them be involved in the process. If there is a struggle to eat fruits and vegetables, you can try to put pureed vegetables into their favorite foods.

Whole grains actually have protein and will keep your child regular. Wikipedia

Grains And Dairy For Kids

Giving your toddler the right serving size of grains is an integral part of ensuring an overall healthy diet. Whole grain foods are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some primary grain foods for your kids are pasta, bread, noodles, couscous, breakfast cereals without marshmallows, corn, rice, and polenta. Some parents can even feed their kids quinoa, barley, and oats as they help offer energy to grow, develop, and learn. Grain foods comprise a lower glycaemic index to provide your child with lasting power and keep them full. Fiber can help offer protection against several diseases.

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In terms of dairy foods, the best choices are cheese, milk, and yogurt. These foods contain a higher level of calcium and protein. You can introduce dairy food items in your child’s diet when they are around six months old. You should do so typically after your little one consumes a few solid foods. However, first, you should start with infant formula or breast milk. It is your baby’s leading source of nutrition until they are 12 months old. After that, the kid can drink cow’s full-fat dairy. As children grow quite a lot before they turn two, it is vital to give them full-fat dairy items for excess energy.

Fish is a lean meat that is rich with fatty acids that are good for brain development. Shutterstock

Protein And Healthy Drinks

Some of the protein-rich foods to be incorporated into your child’s diet will be fish, lean meat, eggs, beans, chicken, tofu, lentils, and even chickpeas. These food items are essential for muscle development. They contain useful minerals and vitamins, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. Omega-3 and iron come from oily fish and red meat, proven to be perfect for improving your child’s learning and developing brain. It is vital to stay away from species with high mercury content and opt for varieties such as salmon, cod, trout, and sea bass. You can cook and puree (or cook and flake) the food for a soft finger food suitable for your toddler.

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While getting a baby or toddler to eat nutritious foods can be challenging, finding healthy and appealing beverages can prove to be just as tricky. Water is proven to be the healthiest drink for your child. For the first six months, formula-fed babies or breast milk ones can have a smaller amount of water. When a child first tells you they are thirsty, you should always offer water first. Water is critical to the health and necessary for countless vital processes in the child’s body. That includes temperature regulation and organ function. Water also helps to avoid dehydration and can improve the child’s brain function.

Does your toddler hate the taste of water? Try a naturally-flavored water and it might change his or her mind. Mom.com

Naturally Flavored Water

Although water is the healthiest drink choice for your growing toddler, there are other alternatives as well. Plain water might seem boring, so your child may dislike this critical fluid. You might look for ways to make the plain beverage more interesting. You can do so without adding extra sugar or calories by infusing the water with fresh fruits and herbs. There are many different flavor combinations you can try until you find one that your child enjoys. Always keep in mind that your child is watching you. If they see that you are indulging in flavored water, they are more likely to do it themselves. 

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There are many different combinations of flavored water that you can create. Some winning options include pineapple and mint, cucumber and watermelon, or blueberries and raspberries. A few others are strawberries and lemon, along with orange and lime. You should try to get your child involved by letting them choose their favorite flavor pairing. They can even assist in adding the ingredients into the water. You can find reusable water bottles with built-in infusers, which can help your child stay hydrated when they are away from home. The naturally flavored water will provide flavor and some fun colors to make drinking water more fun.

Making homemade smoothies is a great way to great your little ones to consume fruits and veggies. Juicer Kings

Smoothies

Sometimes water (even naturally flavored water) is not going to be appealing to your child. You might have to offer them other options to ensure they stay hydrated and get the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Another popular option involves certain smoothies. They are a great, tasty way to sneak fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods into your child’s diet. While some premade smoothies are loaded with sugar, homemade ones don’t have to be. As long as they are rich in nutritious ingredients, they make excellent choices for children. Smoothies can also be beneficial for parents that are dealing with picky eaters. 

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Some many fruits and vegetables can be incorporated into a delicious smoothie. Vegetables such as kale, spinach, and even cauliflower can be blended in a sweet-tasting smoothie that your child will love. There are a few trendy combinations. These include kale and pineapple, spinach and blueberries, and peaches and cauliflower. You can easily blend the ingredients with non-dairy or dairy-based milk. Make every effort to avoid purchasing smoothies at grocery stores or restaurants as they often contain high sugar levels. They are an excellent way to increase your child’s consumption of fruits and vegetables. Smoothies tend to be high in calories, so offer them as a snack or alongside a small meal. 

Skip the sugary drinks. Milk and water are always best for babies and toddlers (and adults, too!). Fodors Travel Guide

Limit These Drinks

As we know, water is the best option for growing babies and toddlers and should be the first option. Infused water and even smoothies are a close second with drinks that are offered to growing children. While these are suggestions based on their benefits, it’s essential to understand that there are also drinks that should be limited or avoided altogether. Although it is perfectly acceptable for children to enjoy a sweetened drink occasionally, sugary drinks should not be consumed regularly. The frequent consumption of these sweetened beverages, such as soda and sports drinks, can lead to unfavorable health conditions such as obesity and dental cavities in children. 

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If there is any drink that should be limited in a child’s diet, it is soda. Sweetened beverages are incredibly high in added sugar and can increase the risk of harmful health conditions. The juice is also another beverage that should be limited. Even though 100 percent juice contains vitamins and minerals, whole juice should always be offered over fruit juices. Lastly, young children should avoid caffeinated beverages. Too much caffeine can cause jitteriness, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and even sleep disturbances in children. It is best to avoid these drinks altogether. You can offer a wide range of healthy drinks to your child when they are thirsty. You should always lead by example and encourage your child to pick the ones that are the best for their health. 

Babies can’t eat solid foods yet, but making baby food from scratch can be fun. Rammstein Air Base.

Healthy Foods For Babies Aged 0 To 9 Months

Making appropriate food choices for your baby during the first year of life is very important. Babies usually do not feed on solid food unless they are six months or older. Before that, they just need Vitamin D supplements and breast milk to survive. For babies six months and older, you should add little solid food in 5 to 10 ml portions and then increase the amount slowly, depending on the child’s hunger. However, you shouldn’t stop breast milk or supplements in any way. You can feed them iron-based infant cereal, water in a cup, and even strawberries cut up into smaller pieces for breakfast.

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There must be around 30 to 45ml of cooked grains, meats, vegetables, and 45 to 75ml of soft fruits. You can add ½ medium egg and 60 to 125ml of cold or prepared hot cereal. Alternatively, you can also add 30ml of yogurt or shredded cheese to the list with half a piece of toast cut into smaller pieces. It is up to the little one to decide the most food he likes and wants you to offer. You should always consult with your healthcare provider. However, starting good eating habits even at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life. 

Besides breastmilk or formula, babies can have infant cereal after six months. Happy Family Organics

Sample Meal Plans for Babies Aged 0 to 9 months

By the time your baby is nine months old, they should be offered two to three meals a day in addition to one or two snacks a day. That is in addition to the breast milk or formula they are consuming. This time in your child’s growth and development can be tough, and you might be questioning what a simple meal plan can look like for your baby. Have no worries because we have an example of what their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times look like. There are many different kinds of meal plans, and your doctor can help you tailor one to your child’s specific needs.

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You can try offering an iron-fortified infant cereal with some strawberries that were mashed or cut-up for breakfast. At lunchtime, you might provide some mashed chicken with a side of mashed cooked sweet potato. Between lunch and dinner, your child might enjoy a snack of mashed pears. For dinner, your child can eat ground beef or lentils with some brown rice and mashed broccoli. You will also want to offer water in a cup for each of these meals and snacks. While this is just a sample meal plan, you will notice that all of this food is prepared in a way that is fit for the baby’s age and development. 

Children become interested in solid food as they start growing their teeth, so it’s a good idea to start adding some variety to their meals. Flickr.

Meals For Babies Aged 9-12 Months

You can start to incorporate some additional fruits, vegetables, and meat products at nine months old. When your little kid is 12 months old, you need to offer him or her three meals a day and one to two snacks in between. Don’t stop on breast milk, as that helps up a lot. For breakfast, you can add iron-based cereal with chopped kiwi and water to drink. In terms of snacks, try giving them whole-wheat toast. Spread it thinly with peanut butter, but only when he is 12 months old. Peanut butter isn’t suitable for babies below 12 months of age. 

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For lunch, you can prepare a meal consisting of mashed oily fish like salmon, chopped and cooked carrot, chopped avocado in small pieces, water, and yogurt. For a snack, give him whole-grain cereals because of their high fiber content. You can present him with chopped chicken, brown rice, chopped and cooked green beans, chopped cantaloupe, and water for dinner. Keep strict control of water, and it shouldn’t exceed more than a cup. As your baby’s digestive system is still developing, you will want to be sure he or she is still getting plenty of water. You can also start incorporating some natural juices meaning no sugar at home, instead of giving processed juice. 

Chop up the food so your baby won’t have a choking experience. Essential Parent

Sample Meal Plans for Babies Aged 9 to 12 Months

As your baby grows and develops, their needs and meal plans will also evolve. By the time your baby is 12 months old, you should be offering them three meals a day and between one and two snacks every day. That is again in addition to the breast milk or formula they are still getting. Their palate is always expanding, and they are going to be trying new food items. For breakfast, try offering some iron-fortified infant cereal with a side of chopped kiwi. Their next meal will be a snack that might be a piece of whole-wheat toast with thinly spread peanut butter. However, the toast should be cut into strips to avoid a choking hazard.

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For lunch, you can offer your child a variety of fruits and vegetables with some protein. For instance, you could try mashed canned salmon with some chopped cooked carrots or avocados. Also, you can offer some yogurt to balance out the meal. Between lunch and dinner, you will want to provide another snack, something smaller such as some whole-grain crackers. Lastly, you can suggest some chopped chicken, brown rice, chopped green beans, and some chopped cantaloupe for dinner. With every meal or snack, they should be offered some water in a cup. Be sure the foods are not a choking hazard and keep a close on them as they eat. 

As children get older, you’ll start to notice which foods that gravitate towards. USDA

Food For Babies Aged 12 to 18 months

For the little ones older than 12 months, you can give them any food you cook for your entire family, minus the spices. Make sure to offer various food daily to help him grow his taste buds and don’t restrict to plain rice all the time. At this point, your child might have a few teeth and can easily chew on some food. It is always important to cut vegetables into small pieces or mash them thoroughly to avoid any potential choking hazards. The food needs to be soft enough to get chewed up quickly. That is an excellent opportunity to start shaping their food choices and get them used to have healthy food options around at all times.

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Once the child is a year old, you can introduce him to cow milk. This food item is the perfect example of calcium and provides your child with all the necessary proteins and vitamins. If you want, you can continue breastfeeding your child if that makes you comfortable. As for finger foods for your toddler, you can use cheese, fruits, toasted tofu, homemade cookies, and even boiled eggs. It is up to your child to choose the times for meals and snacks. By introducing healthy foods now, you are showing your child the importance of eating a balanced diet. They will be able to carry this throughout their lives as they make decisions.

Two-year-olds will start to display their affinity towards certain foods more than others. Wikimedia Commons.

Meal Plan For Kids Aged 18 to 24 months

Milk always forms an essential part of the diet chart for your 18 to 24 months old toddler. However, this stage is crucial for your child’s growth, so parents need to pay special attention to the food items they take. Iron is essential at this stage to prevent anemia, which can eventually affect development and growth if not treated properly. It is also a significant component of RBC and is primarily found in meat products. You can get it in other foods like oatmeal, spinach, and beans. Be sure to manage iron food items with Vitamin C foods like leafy vegetables and citrus to help your child’s body to absorb the goodness of iron well.

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Another vital nutrient at this stage is calcium, and you can get it from dairy products and some greens like spinach, collard, and kale. You can get it from fortified items like orange juice, cereals, and bone-in fish like sardines, sunflower seeds, dried beans, and almond butter. Your toddler needs calcium for strengthening their teeth and bones, neuron messaging, hormonal balance, blood clotting, and even proper muscle contraction. Your child may start to verbalize when he or she is hungry and when he or she is satisfied. Their developing communication skills can help them voice their likes and dislikes.

Despite what your child may or may not like, it’s still crucial that you ensure that their meals are healthy. Pxfuel

More Meal Plans

There are many different resources for meal plans that are specific to babies and toddlers. DHA must be there in their food, which is mainly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. As mentioned already, you can get it in oily fish like sardines, salmons, and more. Your child can get DHA from flax and walnuts and some brands of milk and eggs. It is perfect for improving the brain’s health. Don’t forget to add food rich in choline to your toddler’s meal. It is ideal for cell functioning, and you can get it from foods like shrimp, poultry, egg yolks, seafood, and other greens like beans, cauliflower, and spinach.

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You have to add foods rich in folate to your toddler’s food plan. It is a significant nutrient during their growing age and helps tissues to grow and function properly. You can get it in whole foods like beans, meats, vegetables, seafood, and eggs. It is highly prevalent in yeast, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus. You should also incorporate protein-rich food to improve your child’s hair, skin, nails, blood, bones, and muscles. Breast milk is one high protein source, and you can add more to it with beans, dairy, nuts, eggs, and seeds. Always choose a low-fat protein source like poultry or beans.

3-year-olds are still growing and need all of the protein they can get to develop strong muscles. USDA

Feeding Toddlers Ages 2-3

When your child turns two, you should feed them three healthy meals daily with one to two snacks. You can give the child anything that you cook for your family. Your child’s improved social skills and behavior will help him become an active participant in family mealtime. Make your child eat healthy food items like poultry, meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, milk, and cheese, along with other dairy items and potatoes, cereals, flour, and rice products. You should not fixate on amounts. You should make every effort not to make mealtimes a battle. You want mealtime to be an enjoyable time and not one that your toddler will dread every day.

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There’s no need to worry if your child doesn’t like the meal. Most toddlers resist eating basic food, which has less spice and oil in it. Offering various foods will help your child to pick up his favorites eventually. It will further help him to eat a balanced diet. Toddlers also like to eat on their own. So, try offering them some finger foods or cooked ones that otherwise need a spoon or fork to eat. While you’re not fixating on amounts, you should pay attention to adopting healthy eating habits. That includes sitting as a family during mealtime. Be sure to make healthy food choices as a family. Your toddler will imitate what they see you doing and eating. 

Try to avoid the sugary sweets and salty treats for the big and little kids. ParentMap

Healthy Finger Foods for Kids

When little ones decide that they want to feed themselves, it is the perfect time to introduce healthy, fresh foods. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, meats, fish, beans, and more can all be easy finger foods that are often super easy to prepare and are easy for kids to pick up and eat themselves. It can help keep finger foods in the mix even as kids grow because they often make for simple, healthy snacks that are usually low cost and low prep. There are several things you should consider when identifying safe finger foods for kids. You should avoid some foods as they might be choking hazards.

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A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything hard, round, sticky, or very chewy. All of these food items could lead to choking or excessive gagging. If you are just starting with baby led weaning, or if your child is younger than nine months, foods in the shape of longer sticks are easier to pick up and self-feed. Once your baby has mastered the pincer grip and can pick up food such as a cheese puff with their fingers, you can move on to soft diced foods. Initially, you should stick with softer foods that are easy to chew.

Make sure baby finger foods are in small pieces, and mushy enough for them to swallow without chewing. FirstCry Parenting

First Finger Foods for Babies

After your baby starts solids and is ready to move on to finger foods, it might be a little confusing to know exactly what to serve, how to present it, and even when. That is entirely normal. It is scary to let your baby feed themselves this way. When your baby is around nine months old and can successfully do the pincer grip, they are ready to start trying finger foods. These finger foods are the small pieces of food that a baby can feed themselves. There are several different foods that you can start with. Begin by introducing them to your baby one at a time to keep an eye out for any potential adverse reaction.

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One of the most popular finger foods includes scrambled eggs that are broken up into small pieces. Oatmeal is another popular finger food as long as it is cooked according to the package’s directions and allowed to cool. You might prefer to offer some fruits and vegetables. You can provide a mashed roasted sweet potato that is broken up into smaller pieces. A good rule of thumb is to serve portions of food about the size of a pea to start. That will be easy for the baby to pick up, but it will also reduce choking chances. 

Your toddler can eat fresh veggies, fruits, cooked meats, and whole grains. Mum’s Grapevine

Healthy Finger Foods for Toddlers

As your child grows, their ability to eat certain foods will also change. For toddlers, fruits should be soft and able to be easily mashed or gummed in your child’s mouth. It is crucial at this point to remove peels and cut the fruit into smaller pieces or sticks for your child to easily pick up. Vegetable finger foods should be well-cooked and soft enough that they can also be mashed. You might offer your child green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, or zucchini. All of these vegetable options will allow your child’s palette to grow while they simultaneously get the essential vitamins and minerals they require.

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You should also introduce your baby and toddler to various whole grains while limiting the number of processed grains they receive. If you cook the grains, they can be squashed together to create little clumps for your child to pick up after they have cooked a little bit. That might include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-wheat pasta. Active toddlers also need sufficient protein, and they will get it from a variety of sources, including their milk. You can also offer them cooked chicken, cooked turkey, or cooked beef. All of these should be provided after they have been cut into small pieces or even shredded. 

The food pyramid is an excellent outline for what foods you should focus on in your kid’s diet. Shutterstock

The Beauty Of The Food Pyramid

To help you adapt to healthy eating habits, the food pyramid is a must to follow. It means your body will get all the necessary fat, protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals for proper growth and maintenance. The same goes for kids. The foods with the same kind of nutrients will be grouped to form one layer of the food pyramid. So, your babies or toddlers will have different food choices to work with. Following the food pyramid provides your child with the chance to maintain a healthy diet and address the right balance of nutritional food items. There will be a good check on calories too.

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Studies show that food and drinks rich in sugar, salt, and fat will remain at the top layer of the food pyramid and shouldn’t be consumed daily. It provides few minerals and vitamins that your child’s body needs, so there needs to be a restriction to its consumption. Then you have the fats, oils, and spreads section, which your child should consume in minimal amounts. This section comprises butter, cheese, mayonnaise, and oil. The third section is the protein and vitamin section. It contains poultry, meat, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Your child must have a serving of this third section of the food pyramid twice daily. It helps him to get the protein needed for his ultimate growth.

The basics of the food pyramid are the focus on whole grains, vegetables, and fruit making up the majority of the diet. Wikimedia Commons

More About the Food Pyramid

The food kids need from each group varies with gender and age. The fourth and last layer of the food pyramid consists of yogurt, cheese, and milk. Your child should have three servings of it daily. The fourth portion of the food pyramid consists of bread, whole-meal cereals, pasta, potatoes, and rice. The serving will vary from 3 to 5 pieces a day, depending on your child’s actual age. The last and the most extensive section of the food pyramid is vegetables and fruits. It has the highest number of servings with 5 to 7 per day.

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As an overview, your child must have enough fruits and vegetables daily. There should be a proportionate serving of potatoes, pasta, cereals, and rice at every meal, followed by some yogurt or milk. Then, there should be a portion of some poultry, meat, or fish and a minimal amount of fat. It is better to avoid any food or drink with a higher sugar, fat, and salt content. As a general rule, a balanced nutritional diet should include at least three food groups at each meal. On the other hand, snacks should contain two groups. Try to make sure that your child is getting enough of each group for optimal health and growth.

Toddlers should be started on pureed foods that are pretty bland so that they can get used to the ideas of solids. Pixabay

Healthy Food To Feed Babies And Toddlers

Feeding is a problematic procedure for new parents, but it isn’t tough once you know the best course of action to take. If your infant seems hungrier, then only breast milk won’t do. In a healthy child, the recommended age to start solid food is 4 to 6 months. The first safe food to introduce to your baby is rice cereal. Some babies can even tolerate a variety of foods like pureed meats. You can add vegetables, grains, fruits, and meat, but there’s no exact order to it. Your healthcare provider can help offer guidance on when your child is ready to start introducing new foods.

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Give your baby a pureed version of lamb or beef meat for their highest iron content. Iron is perfect for brain development and ferries oxygen to blood cells. After age 1, your child doesn’t need formula anymore. Nevertheless, you can continue to breastfeed your baby. Now, you can introduce full-fat milk from cow or fortified soy beverages to your child. Even adding juice to this diet plan seems to be a bright idea. Drinks with 100% natural fruit juice will supply all the necessary nutrients your child needs. But, you have to wait for six months before introducing juices to infants.

Fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system so that your child can fight off infections when they happen. Flickr

Balanced Diets

A balanced diet for a toddler is very different from ours. Their nutritional needs differ, and these differences should be taken into account when planning their meals. It is always mandatory to provide children with a balanced diet plan with a minimum amount of saturated fat, mainly found in fatty animals. There should be partially hydrogenated fat within their meals, but not more than that. Adding meat, fruits, and green vegetables to the diet is smart to build up their immune system. In terms of snacks, there are some select nutrient-rich snacks you can get your child.

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Some of those snack ideas are cheese, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, fruit, milk, smoothies made of fresh fruits and vegetables, and dry cereal. You can also introduce scrambled eggs and chopped hard-boiled eggs as little snacks. Try adding well-cooked veggies like sweet potatoes as well. Your toddler’s tummy is also around five times smaller than yours. That is why they need to eat small amounts of energy and nutrient-rich foods frequently throughout the day. To get just the right amount of energy and nutrients, your toddler should have three small balanced meals a day with regular snacks in between. 

Your toddler should eat an assortment of foods from all the food pyramid categories. FamilyEducation

What Is a Balanced Diet for a Toddler?

We know that a toddler’s balanced diet looks a lot different than an adult’s balanced diet. That is because a toddler’s diet differs in their sugar and salt intake, portion sizes, energy, and nutrient needs. However, what does that balanced diet look like? Their diet should combine starchy foods, fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, and foods high in fat. Starchy foods should be offered at every single meal. They can be provided as a snack too. Examples include bread, rice, cereals, and potatoes. You should provide a range of different colored fruits and vegetables as they all contain other nutrients. Remember that children will imitate the adults around them, so include them in your diet too.

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Your toddler should have three portions of dairy food per day which can include snacks. The fish and meat portion of their balanced diet provide your toddler with the protein they need. That can consist of chicken, salmon, and eggs. They should have two servings a day. Meat contains iron that is critical for proper brain development. Oily fish such as salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for brain and eye development. Toddlers also need foods that are high in fat which includes butter and biscuits. Although fats and sugars are an energy source, they only contain small amounts of vitamins and therefore should be limited. 

Encourage your toddler to eat multiple foods. That way, they will enjoy at least one thing in each category and you won’t have to deal with picky eaters. Strong4Life

What Should My Toddler Eat?

Between the ages of one and three, your toddler starts to learn to eat more solid foods and is more active. The toddler years are full of exploring and discovery. The best thing you can offer your toddler is various foods from each food group with different tastes, textures, and colors. Your job is to decide what foods are offered along with when and where they are eaten. Your child can help guide which foods they will eat and also how much. It is also important to note that their day-to-day and even meal-to-meal appetite changes are entirely normal. Try not to overstress the amount they are eating but rather encourage and applaud what they are consuming.

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If your child is a picky eater, try to go slow and offer different foods one at a time. It is important to remember that they might need to try new food multiple times before accepting it. You should also make food plain, simple, and recognizable. Some kids, especially initially, do not like mixed food, such as a casserole or touching food. Make every effort not to force them to eat food they don’t want. Give them multiple choices so that they can choose something he or she does like. Always set a good example of healthy eating and plan regular meals and snacks when they have enough time to eat. 

Healthy food can be made fun with a little bit of creativity. Good Free Photos.

Healthy Ways To Prepare Food For Babies

To get total control over your babies’ food, trying to prepare homemade meals is an innovative task. Making food at home means you know exactly what’s going inside their little tummies. It is even more economical when compared to pre-packaged foods from grocery stores or supermarkets. You get the opportunity to choose vegetables, fruits, and other foods for purees. Some baby food manufacturers might add preservatives to the food, which you can avoid by preparing it yourself at home. Homemade baby food will further help your toddler have the same food as the rest of the family but in a puree.

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Once you decide to prepare baby food at home, you need a food grinder and a proper way to steam food. If it’s taking way too much time to make your own baby food, steaming is the perfect way to cook baby food ingredients in a mash. It helps in preserving the most nutrients in every bite. You’ll want to prepare all of your ingredients. These include grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, and poultry. It is best to serve unseasoned foods initially, as your baby’s taste buds are just starting to develop. They are more likely to develop a preference for their taste without any butter or salt added by giving foods unseasoned.

Boiling or steaming fruit is an easy way to soften it up so that it can be pureed. Shutterstock

Other Helpful Tips for Feeding Toddlers

You can combine various methods to prepare purees for your toddler. Some of those methods are steaming, blending, warming, and finally defrosting. There’s no need to buy separate items for covering these steps, as your processor will do the trick. In case you don’t have any, you can use a blender or potato masher to turn food into its softest puree form. There shouldn’t be any chunks. As your baby gets older and has been introduced to more nutrition, you can gradually start giving him or her what is on the menu for the rest of the family. Just so as long as you mash, blend, or puree it to the right consistency.

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From the food processor you are using to blend the food down to the spoon you are using to feed your baby. Everything must be properly cleaned and disinfected. Cleaning the blender or plates every time after a meal is over is necessary. It is vital to clean the knives and spoons before starting the eating process. Use hot water to clean the utensils for sterilizing, and then use the mildest soap possible, free from chemicals. Most of the popular books nowadays offer hundreds of recipes for baby food. You can mix and match various fruits and vegetables to create unique, tasty concoctions.

When using fruit, always wash it first because there may still be pesticides on it. Flickr

Final Storage Stages

After cleaning your hands and equipment, make sure to peel the fruits and scrub dirt from vegetables. For some fruits like apples, you can keep the skin on. Later, you can bake, steam, or roast until tender, as mentioned already. Create the puree in the food processor. For its liquid base, use water, formula, or breast milk. For adding some more texture, you can mash the food items. Later, store it in a freezer or refrigerator and always in airtight containers. When the time comes to feed your baby, rewarm the food, and give it some time to cool down.

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The market houses multiple storage containers for keeping your baby’s food safe and locking the nutrients inside. You can even use an ice cube tray to freeze the food into small cubes. Apart from vegetables and fruits, you can puree some food items like cooked meat as well. The meat needs to be cooked entirely without any skin, connective tissue, or fat. There should not be any pink soft in the middle. You can even puree boiled eggs and beans for a change of taste. Sometimes, you can add mild spices or a little butter to the mixture, but only when your child reaches a certain age and not before that. It is better until he turns one before adding mild spices or oil to his food.

Scrambled eggs are also a good option as a first food for babies who are starting on solid foods. Wikimedia Commons

Healthy Foods for Babies: Avocados and Eggs

Depending on your child’s current age, the ideal food types are subject to change, but the basics remain the same. You want food that is full of necessary nutrients your baby needs for their healthy growth. So, let’s just learn more about those foods and why they are considered healthy among parents. Even though sometimes stated as vegetables, avocados are fruits. They have a higher nutrient count than most food groups. With its highest protein source, it is also rich in mono-saturated fat. It helps in keeping heart diseases at bay. However, babies should not feed on ripe avocados.

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Packed with complete goodness from the yolk to the white, an egg is an ultimate addition to your baby’s meal count. The egg whites have a higher protein content, and yolks are rich in vitamins A, D, E, B12, and zinc. Yolk has useful choline within, which is best for developing your child’s brain and maintaining their health. Around six months, you can puree an egg to serve. At around eight months, scrambled eggs are excellent finger food for your baby. You will want to be sure to check your child for allergies if egg allergies run in your family.

Peas and carrots are natural finger foods that toddlers can eat on their own. Shutterstock

Peas and Carrots

Your babies need vitamin K, and peas have the right amount of it. It works excellent with calcium for keeping bones healthy. Peas will have the highest antioxidants, like Vitamin C and A, along with a fair share of vitamins and folic acid. Adding peas will further help in boosting the fiber content of your baby’s meal plan. It is even easier to make a pureed form of peas. Some of the other food items that you may incorporate in your baby’s diet plan are butternut squash, broccoli, pasta, and more. It all depends on your child’s taste buds and allergic reactions.

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Carrots are known for their higher beta-carotene levels. This antioxidant helps in creating a carrot’s signature orange color. It gets converted into Vitamin A upon entering the body and improves the growth of your baby and their vision. Cooking carrots properly will bring out the natural sweetness, making it instead appealing to babies to give a try. Carrots are packed with essential nutrients and are extremely easy to use as a baby food ingredient. The vitamin A in carrots is vital for their vision and their immune system support and their lungs, heart, and kidneys.

Cereals are filled with whole grains that keep your child regular; just avoid the sugary ones. Pixabay

Baby Cereals

There are many different thoughts on baby cereals. Iron-based cereals for infants will provide them with the iron needed for proper development and growth. Babies have enough iron once born, but it runs out when they are 5 to 6 months old. Breast milk fails to provide an adequate amount. So, going for the iron-rich food items seems like a pretty easy option to consider. Be sure to check if your kids have any allergic reactions to grains. After eating these standard baby cereals, your toddler can move up to the usual cereal aisle. However, stick to things like Cheerios instead of the sugary ones.

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For years, rice cereal was considered the gold standard first baby food. It was thought rice cereal was a favorite first food because it is easy to digest and is not likely to cause an allergic reaction. However, now we know that babies can likely begin solids around six months and that serving a wider variety of foods at that point is perfectly fine. Some healthcare professionals now suggest that parents start with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as avocado, and other iron-rich foods such as peas and beans. Baby cereal can still be an excellent option to give to the baby, but it just doesn’t have to be the sole first food.

Cheese is excellent for the gut, but don’t feed your child too much, as they could become constipated. Shutterstock

Yogurt and Cheese

Your baby needs calcium, protein, and phosphorus, and you can get them all from yogurt. This food item further helps in strengthening your child’s bones and teeth. It even has a fair amount of good bacteria or probiotics, which helps in aiding digestion and supports immune systems. Babies need fats in their diet, and whole-milk yogurt will provide them with some. Try avoiding the flavored ones, which have higher sugar content within. You should strive to look for yogurt made with whole milk, has a mild flavor and a creamy texture. Stirring in some fresh fruits will make yogurt tasty and appealing to your child’s taste buds.

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Another good protein source, cheese, comprises an essential nutrient to help your baby thrive. It has calcium for stronger bones and perfect teeth. Cheese has a fair amount of riboflavin that helps convert carbohydrates, fat, and proteins into energy. For that sweet taste, try Swiss cheese. The key is to offer full-fat cheeses that are also pasteurized for safety. You might also want to start with more mild cheese before moving onto the stronger ones. Full fat cheese is essential as children under two need the fat to help their bodies and brains grow. Try to avoid softly aged or mold-ripened cheeses and always check the labels.

Bananas are a rich source of vitamin C and fiber. Shutterstock

Citrus and Bananas

Some healthcare providers will suggest that babies can have citrus starting around six months. However, many parents will hold off until about 12 months. Some people wait a little bit longer due to the acidity of citrus fruit. It has been known to irritate, which may result in a rash. Some citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, and oranges have a higher amount of vitamin C, forming collagen in a baby’s bones, muscles, and body tissues. It further helps to heal cuts and assist in absorbing iron from other food items. Citrus fruits have enough potassium, which helps babies’ muscles to contract and play a healthy fluid balance within the body.

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Rich in carbohydrates, bananas often provide sustained energy and the right amount of fiber for a healthy digestive tract. They are easy to peel and mash, making them perfect for baby food. While serving bananas to your babies, the fruit needs to be completely ripe and adequately mashed. Older kids can eat chopped-up banana chunks. Most babies love bananas because of their sweet taste. They are also a great source of prebiotic fiber, which feeds desirable bacteria in your baby’s gut and helps them build a healthy digestive system. You might even want to couple bananas with some form of protein or fat to balance out the sugar.

Sweet potatoes have vitamin A, which is beneficial for a baby’s eyes. Flickr

Tomatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes have a higher lycopene content, which is an antioxidant. It helps in preventing heart disease and cancers. Your baby’s body can absorb lycopene easily, especially if it is cooked with fat. So, while making tomato puree for kids, try adding a bit of olive oil to it. Homemade tomato sauce has less sugar and salt within, making it perfect for your babies to have. Tomatoes have a ton of vitamin C, making them an ideal pairing for foods with plant-based iron, such as beans and peas. Tomatoes are also packed full of carotenoids that color the food and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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Sweet potatoes are an excellent food choice for your growing baby. This food is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and beta-carotene. Your baby needs those to prevent cancer cells from forming and mopping up some free radicals. Thanks to its sweet taste, most children prefer it over other veggies. It can even create a smooth puree, which most children enjoy. Sweet potatoes are packed full of nutrients. They are highly palatable, and their fiber content helps the digestive tract and bowel health. By baking sweet potatoes for your baby, you can bring out their natural sweetness and good flavor while also retaining the most nutrients.

Lean chicken can be great introductory food for a toddler. Shutterstock

Fish, Red Meat, and Chicken

Some white fish like cod and haddock are some excellent protein sources. Even fatty fish like salmon provide fat-soluble vitamins and essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids. It helps support eye and brain development and a properly functioning immune system. Before introducing fish to your baby’s diet plan, consult a doctor to see if your child is allergic to fish or not. As your baby needs iron, try adding red meat to their food list. It has easily absorbed iron within, helping RBC carry oxygen to cells through the baby’s entire body. It is even vital for brain development.

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Packed with protein and a higher source of vitamin B6, chicken helps your body extract energy from other food items. For rapid growth, parents should feed their babies enough protein. In comparison to other meats, chicken contains less fat. The fat that it does have is less saturated. When introducing your child to chicken, many parents choose to cook the breast as it is the leanest part of the bird and certainly the healthiest choice. If your child doesn’t prefer the taste of chicken, try mixing it with their favorite vegetable or fruit. It is very versatile and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Make sure you cut your toddler’s food and stay by them as they eat to avoid a choking experience. Jump IN for Healthy Kids

Help Your Child Eat Safely 

While you are preparing foods and feeding them to your baby and then toddler, it is common to have some concerns. Children under the age of four are at a higher risk of choking than older children and adults. That is because they have small airways and also less control over swallowing. This combination increases their likelihood of choking. You must always stay with your child while they eat and drink. You should avoid feeding your child in a moving vehicle or a stroller. There are many tips, tricks, and resources to educate yourself on how to prevent your baby from choking. 

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First and foremost, always watch your child and make sure they sit down to eat or drink. You should encourage them to take small bites and to chew the food thoroughly. Be sure to chop soft fruit into small pieces and remove any pits, seeds, and tough skins before serving it to your baby. Any round foods such as grapes should be cut lengthwise first and then into pieces. It will help the food slide down the throat and limit the likelihood of choking. That might be a no-brainer, but you should never feed your child foods with toothpicks or skewers. 

Stay away from fried foods as much as possible, as they have too much oil for a toddler to handle. Shutterstock

Foods Your Baby Needs To Avoid

As eager as you and your baby might be to try new foods, there are a few that should stay off the table, at least for the time being. Just like learning about the best foods to feed your baby, try keeping a checklist of food items you cannot give to babies, like peanut butter or honey. Avoid too many sugary beverages or salty fried crisps, as your babies don’t need too much saturated oil or fat. Don’t give them any sweets or snacks either because they will crave more sugar after getting a taste. Make sure to keep unpasteurized foods off the menu and always cut pieces of fruits and vegetables into smaller cubes to prevent choking hazards.

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You may have heard that you should avoid feeding babies allergenic foods. However, some providers recommend introducing allergenic foods earlier, such as between four and 11 months, to help prevent food allergies. That may be a good thing since they are packed with healthy protein, folate, and other essential nutrients. Introduce the foods one at a time where you can closely monitor and watch for any reaction type. Always consult a pediatrician to help you create a perfect diet plan for your child. After running a thorough examination, doctors will create a complete diet chart for your little one. 

Make sure you read labels to see what is really in the food you give your babies. Always cook it thoroughly, too. The Kitchn

Food Safety for Toddlers

In addition to certain foods that should be avoided altogether, some need extra attention when preparing them. For starters, salt should be avoided altogether. You should try to keep it at a minimum when cooking and instead include herbs and spices to season. Artificial flavorings, colorings, preservatives, and sweeteners should be avoided. These are not allowed to be in manufactured baby or toddler foods but can be present in some adult foods. You should always read the labels very carefully and consult with your doctor if there are any questions. Certain additives have been linked to behavioral concerns later in life.

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While we have talked briefly about eggs and incorporating them into your baby’s diet, they, along with shellfish, can cause food poisoning if they are not cooked properly. If you are going to include either of the two into your baby’s diet, make sure they are always cooked well and thoroughly. Lastly, nuts are an excellent source of nutrients; however, if there is a family history of allergies, it is best to avoid them until after three years. Whole or chopped nuts should be avoided until they are at least five years old as they are a choking hazard. 

Sources:

https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/daily-food-guides/babies-toddlers-food-groups

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating/sample-meals-baby-6-12-month

https://gkfooddiary.com/12-18-months-baby-food-chart/

https://www.safefood.eu/Healthy-Eating/The-Food-Pyramid-and-The-Eatwell-Guide/The-Food-Pyramid.aspx

https://www.happyfamilyorganics.com/learning-center/recipes-meal-plans/18-24-months-meal-plan/

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Feeding-and-Nutrition-Your-Two-Year-Old.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/what-to-feed-your-baby-toddler#1

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/what-to-feed-your-baby-toddler#2

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/what-to-feed-your-baby-toddler#3

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/what-to-feed-your-baby-toddler#4

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/making-baby-food#2

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/making-baby-food#3

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/making-baby-food#1

https://www.parents.com/baby/feeding/nutrition/best-super-foods-for-baby/

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-food-timeline

https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/feeding-baby/foods-to-avoid-feeding-baby/

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