Toddlers are busy little people. Every day they’re burning energy and growing at the same time – so the energy in their diet (kilojoules consumed) should be balanced
against their physical activity in the day to ensure they are not over-consuming. Remember, their stomachs are the
size of their clenched fists – so make every bite count!
This is especially important in the early years – because good food habits established in childhood can last a lifetime.
Variety in a toddler’s diet is essential for their healthy growth and development.
Aim to offer them around 15 different foods in a day: for example, a serve of spaghetti bolognese can have more than 6 different foods, including mince, pasta,
tomatoes, grated carrot, zucchini and cheese.
Assess your toddler’s diet over a week rather than day-to-day, and hopefully you’ll see the balance fall in to place.
- Maintain regular meal times
- Minimise or avoid non-nutritious foods
- Don’t bribe using food, especially those that are nonnutritious and high in sugar, such as chocolate or ice cream
- Encourage them to try new foods; don’t rely on distraction
- Try to avoid adding salt and sugar to your toddler’s meals
- Be a role model for healthy eating
- Offer realistic portion sizes
- Increase their variety of foods
- Encourage healthy snacking
Remember, fussy eating is temporary. If you are concerned, speak to your healthcare professional.
Below is a portion guide from the Australian Dietary Guidelines for little ones aged 2–3 years. It is designed to meet the recommended daily dietary intake. Remember it is a GUIDE only – every toddler is unique, with different metabolisms and energy levels.
Each serve does not have to be consumed in one sitting. It can be portioned to sizes according to your toddler’s appetite through the day
Fussy eating is normal and common during the toddler years, therefore it is important to try and maintain a healthy balance during this time.
If your toddler misses out on essential nutrients such as iron and zinc, this may affect their appetite, behaviour and energy. Simple additions to their diet may help with tiredness and lethargy (which may be caused by inadequate iron and energy intake) or irregular toilet habits (which may be caused by inadequate fibre intake).
This brochure offers some handy tips, as well as suggestions for setting up healthy eating habits, which may help your toddler get more of the nutrition they need.
Tips to help boost nutrient quality:
INCREASE FIBRE AND VITAMINS – grate or finely chop vegetables such as carrot, zucchini or pumpkin into pasta sauces, casseroles or muffins. Chop fruit into bitesized pieces and thread onto skewers or cook into biscuits, scones or scrolls.
INCREASE IRON – red meat, chicken and fish are great sources of well-absorbed iron. Eggs, legumes and iron-fortified cereals are good sources, and adding food high in vitamin C (tomato and oranges) during meal time can enhance the absorption of iron.
INCREASE ZINC – serve a few seafood meals per week, such as salmon patties, tuna mornay or crumbed fish.
INCREASE PROTEIN AND ENERGY – double or triple eggs in baked items like pikelets or pancakes, or add almond meal in place of flour.
USE S-26 GOLD TODDLER milk drink in place of regular milk when preparing cereals or cooking meals such as frittata, quiche, scones, scrolls and pikelets.
Encourage children to try something new by putting one piece of food on their plate at a time ...it all starts with one pea!
- Offer a variety of nutritious foods from the 5 food groups (cereals, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and dairy)
- Encourage your toddler to be physically active every day for at least 3 hours, spread throughout the day
- Give water as the main source of fluids. The total amount of fluid a toddler needs is about 4 cups per day, including water and milk
- Offer reduced-fat dairy foods from 2 years of age
- Limit the intake of saturated fat, salt and sugar
- Introduce all types of foods unless they are a choking risk, such as whole nuts and hard foods like raw carrot
- For allergy prevention, do not delay introducing foods such as smooth peanut butter, eggs and wheat.
If you have any concerns, see your GP or healthcare professional.