Here is a nutrition guide for all mothers of fussy toddlers, with picky eating habits. This will help you streamline your thoughts on daily food choices for your little ones; reminding you to choose something each day from all five food groups.
For toddlers, food is always the last priority. Their minds bubbling with excitement, toddlers have little or no patience to indulge in food. Mothers of these fussy eaters are therefore; keener on feeding them whatever they are ready to eat, rather than focusing on their nutritional needs.
While this may seem the perfect solution at that moment, it becomes a major problem in the long run. With nutritional requirements un-met, these toddlers grow into teens with nutritional deficiencies and often fall sick from time to time. It is therefore, very important that emphasis is laid on providing healthy nutrition to kids between 2-6 years of age.
The Food Guide Pyramid, designed by the US Department of Agriculture informs young mothers about the five major food groups; their nutritional importance and foods that fall under these five groups. It also stresses the need to feed the toddlers, foods from these five groups each day; thus, ensuring a healthy diet.
The food guide pyramid arranges the five food groups in a pyramid structure, with the one with maximum servings per day at the base. According to this food guide, there are five basic food groups; servings for which have been indicated as per the nutritional requirements of 2to 6 year olds. Mothers must remember that neither of the group can be skipped or replaced by foods from other groups. It is essential to give your toddler food from each group every day.
The following are the five food groups forming the Food Guide Pyramid for toddlers:
1. Grain Group: the grain group forms the base of the pyramid. this group caters to the carbohydrate requirement of your child. Foods that form this group are – bread, rice, wheat, cereal, pasta etc. In all mothers need to give their toddlers 6-11 servings from the grain group in one day. They can do that by choosing a variety of grains to be given in different forms. For e.g: In a day the six servings of grain can be completed by giving the child - one slice of bread, one chapatti, half cup of rice, half cup of cooked cereal, 1 cup of ready to eat cereal and half cup of pasta.
2. Vegetable group: the vegetable group comes on top of the grain group and requires 3-5 servings to be given every day. Foods in this group include – all types of vegetables especially the green leafy ones. Mothers can give the veggies either as salads, raw or cooked as part of the meals. You can even add veggies to sandwiches, pasta and as soups. One serving of solid vegetables is equivalent to half a cup; whereas one serving of leafy veggies is equivalent to one cup, served either cooked or raw.
3. Fruit group: this group shares the second level with the vegetable group. Mothers must understand that fruits are as important for the toddlers as vegetables as they provide them with the much required vitamins and minerals absent in any other food groups. Toddlers need 2-4 servings from the fruit groups. These can be given either in the form of shakes, juices or whole fruits. One serving of fruit is equivalent to – 1 piece of fruit, ½ cup of chopped or canned fruit, ¾ glass of juice, ¼ cup of dried fruit.
4. Milk Group: the milk group forms the third level of the food guide pyramid. It looks after the calcium requirements of your toddler. Mothers must give 2-4 servings from this group to their toddlers. The milk group comprises of the following foods- milk, curd and cheese. You can give these foods either the way they are or make different dishes out of them and give to the child to add to the variety. One serving from this group is equivalent to - 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, 1 cup of yogurt or 2 ounces of cheese.
5. Meat Group: this group shares the level with the milk group and comprises of foods such as – lean meat, fish, poultry, cooked or dry beans, pulses, soya, eggs or peanut butter. Foods from this group cater to the protein requirements of your little one and thus, 2-3 servings should be given to kids everyday from this group. One serving from the meat group is equivalent to - ½ cup of cooked dry beans, ½ cup of cooked pulses, 2-3 ounces of cooked meat, fish or poultry or 1 egg.
Other foods: at the top of the pyramid come other foods such as fatty and sugary foods. These are given least priority in the food pyramid and their intake needs to be restricted to the minimum. Children require very little fats and sugars add lots of calories without the nutritional benefits. Therefore, mothers should tactfully keep kids away from cold drinks, chips, jams, jellies, candies and fried foods etc.
Some handy food tips for moms:
- Remember that this food guide is for kids between 2-6 years of age and that is why a range of servings is given. While a two year old may take only 5 servings of grains a day and that too with decreased serving sizes; a six year old may take 8-10 servings as recommended. Mothers need to apply that discretion as per the child’s age while feeding.
- Provide y0ur child with foods from all food groups. The amount does not matter as much as the intake of all essential nutrients in a day does. The key lies in serving variety, even if it means a decrease in serving sizes.
- Inculcate the habit of exercising in your child to balance the food she eats.
- Set a good example by eating right yourself. Eat all that you put in front of your toddler and she will follow you.
- Toddlers need lots of calcium and iron. Make sure what you feed them is meeting their body’s requirement in order to facilitate proper growth.
- Your toddler’s diet should be more or less similar to the rest of the family’s.
Understanding the importance of a balanced nutritional diet for toddlers will automatically motivate you to serve up dishes that cater to their nutrition needs first; making it a habit in no time. This will not only ensure proper growth for your child but will also prevent many health complications in future.