When deciding what to cook for dinner, you have to take into account the health of your toddler. Bad eating habits are easy to stick to, but they can induce a number of health problems, and no one wants that for their child. The bright side to deciding what and when to feed your toddler is that you, as a parent, are familiar with your child’s eating habits and their taste. Children between the ages of 1-3 years generally need three meals and one to two snacks per day to fuel their systems. Sticking to regularly scheduled eating times allows both you and your tot to know what to expect.
Every child is different, some are pickier than others, and even the same child will eat varying amounts from meal to meal and day to day. We outline some meals and the serving sizes that are proven to benefit the health of youth. It’s important to keep in mind that hunger and fullness cues are much more important than following exact amounts.
Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of The Day
Eating a hearty breakfast is tied to a number of health benefits. This meal is responsible for giving us the energy we need to get through school, work, and the longest of days. If this applies to adults, then it’s much more essential for your toddler to get their morning fill. Serving your toddler a toasted oats cereal with sliced banans and milk is optimal if you want to aim for a low intake of sugary and processed foods. Serving sizes could be provided as follows:
- ½ cup of whole grains (such as oatmeal), dry cereal, 1 whole-grain toaster waffle or ½ slice of whole-grain bread
- ¼ to ½ cup of fruit, such as bananas, berries, or unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup of milk
Your child is bound to get hungry between breakfast and the next meal, so parents can provide a healthy snack of plain yogurt with berries. Serving sizes call for:
- ½ cup of whole-milk yogurt or cottage cheese or 1 to 2 ounces of cheese
- ¼ to ½ cup of fruit
Lunch: An Essential Mid-Day Meal
By the time your toddler hits noon, whether they are already in school or still at home, they are going to need another meal to be able to get through their day. Most parents, by tradition, like to provide their children with a sandwich with a snack and a beverage. This combination of foods is optimal, as it’s just enough to get them full, but also not too overbearing, to the point where they might get sleepy or drowsy. If you want to make this typical kind of lunch special by making it more nutritious, you can make a turkey sandwich on whole wheat grain with peas, thinly sliced apple pieces, with milk. The serving sizes call for:
- ¼ cup of your choice of protein, such as turkey, ham, bologna, seafood, beans, lentils, or 1 egg
- ¼ cup of whole-grain pasta, brown rice or other whole grains, or two slices of bread for a sandwich
- ¼ cup of veggies, such as peas, sweet potato, celery, carrots
- ¼ cup of fruit such as canned peaches (packed in water or 100% juice, not syrup), thinly sliced apples or pears
Children’s digestive systems act fast, especially while they burn all their energy on the playground after eating their lunch. A perfect snack for this time of day could consist of cucumber slices with hummus to dip in. Serving sizes include:
- ¼ to ½ cup of veggies or whole grains, such as thinly sliced cucumbers, green peppers, or lightly steamed carrot sticks. 4 crackers or ½ of whole-grain English muffins or bagels are also optimal
- Source of protein: 1 tablespoon of hummus, bean dip or nut butter (thinly spread). One hard-boiled egg or 1 to 2 ounces of cheese is also optimal
- Water as a refreshment
Dinner: Last But Not Least
Dinner is not only the last meal of the day but is the meal parents and children share together. Parents often have to make dinner meals more kid-friendly for easy digestion, chewing, and swallowing. Diced chicken, a steamed veggie blend, ½ cup of brown rice, and milk make a perfect meal for toddlers. Serving portions include:
- ¼ to ½ cup of protein and meat, such as poultry, seafood, beans, or lentils
- ½ cup of veggies, such as steamed squash, broccoli, cauliflower
- ½ cup of whole-grain pasta, brown rice or other whole grains, or a slice of whole-grain bread
- ½ cup of water or milk
Implement Healthy Eating Habits Early On for a Long and Happy Life!
Pediatrics On Demand cares about the health of each and every child we treat. With that being said, we got out of our way to advise and guide parents on how to manifest healthy habits into their child’s life so that they can adopt them when they lead their own lives. Contact us today to learn more about how to look after your child’s health.