The foundation for lifelong health is built during the first three years in a child’s life. Now it is very important to understand that in contrast to infancy that is (below 1 year) and adolescence when a dramatic change is observed, toddlers have less remarkable and steadier growth. During this period, more development is observed in the social, cognitive, and emotional areas.
The rate of growth is slower and more gradual. The average gain in weight is 2 to 2.5kg each year. They will gain more height than weight. Approximately 6- 7cm annually. Physical activity during this period is increased.
By 2 years of age as complete dentition is developed the child can eat a wide range of foods. They master fine motor skills, become independent, and learn to express themselves.
How to manage a toddler’s nutrient requirement?
● Energy requirement is determined by their BMR, activity patterns & rate of growth. Up to 10 years, no specific gender differences are made for recommended dietary allowances.
● A toddler needs 1240 calories per day. The appetite diminishes around the age of one due to the reduction in growth rate. Post that, the appetite keeps fluctuating as the body needs and demand for food are higher during the period of rapid growth.
● 25 grams visible fat per day can be introduced in a toddlers diet. High fat intake is recommended to make food energy dense rather than bulking the diet.
● Protein should be around 1.5 gm to 2 gm per kg body weight to maintain the positive nitrogen balance, increase muscle mass and to accompany bone growth.
● Vitamins and minerals are equally important as the total body size increases so do the vascular system to transport nutrients to the tissues and waste products away from tissues.
● For blood formation and bone growth, calcium, iron, protein, folic acid and pyridoxine requirement accelerates. Milk is the best source of calcium. Hence, consumption of 1-2 glass per day is mandatory.
● For growth and to increase the body size, 30mg of iron is required on an average for the child to gain 2kg/year. Hence, per day it should be 0.2 mg. Food like rice flakes, garden cress, egg yolk and greens should be included in the diet.
● The requirement of Vitamin A & Vitamin C is 400μg & 40μg respectively. To meet these add 2 servings of fruits, greens and carrot in the daily diet.
● Since the bone growth and muscle development is a continuous process till adolescence the requirement for protein, calcium, vitamin A & vitamin C will always remain high and it is important to meet the requirement to avoid stunted growth and malnutrition.
A balanced diet for 1 to 3yrs
|Type of foods||In Grams|
|Green leafy vegetables||50||50|
|Other veggies(roots and tubers)||30||30|
|Fats & Oils||20||20|
|Meat, Fish and Eggs||–||40|
|Sugar & Jaggery||30||30|
Expose your toddler to new foods and flavours every day. Accept the food challenges they throw at you and do not give up because patience pays off one day. Seeing your kid become fit and healthy is the ultimate satisfaction.
Strategies to foster good eating habits
● Schedule regular meals & snacks.
● Always offer one food that the child likes.
● Introduce finger foods such as raw fruit and vegetables cut in the finger size.
● Make healthy foods appealing in texture, colour, shape and of course taste.
● Remain calm if the child leaves an entire meal untouched once in a while.
● Breakfast is very important for a child. It should meet one-third of the day’s energy requirement.
● Don’t get worried if the child wants the same food over & over again. If such behaviour continues and this habit eliminates an important food group, then consult the experts.
● Teach and reinforce good table manners and hygiene.
● Allow the child to eat slowly and include variety.
● Offer healthy food in a relaxed manner and let the child eat what they need.
● Candies and colas or any other concentrated sweets must be limited in the diet. All type of traditional sweets are allowed.
● Let children participate in basic kitchen activities under your supervision like storing vegetables and fruits in the refrigerator, counting onions, shifting potatoes from one bucket to another. This will give them an opportunity to know a variety of foods and increase motor skill.
Make nutrient dense as they eat less. Prepare homemade nutrient-rich snacks to meet the daily requirement. Even if they eat less, the required dietary allowance is met.
Few of the nutrient-rich snacks you can make at home are:
1. Wheat besan ladoo
2. Spinach & cauliflower pakora
3. Spinach potato and gram tikki
4. Egg sandwiches
5. Spinach – groundnut burfi with jaggery
6. Sago peanut vada
7. Mix veg cutlets
8. Sprouted moong dishes
Few important notes to the parents
● Children from birth till 3 yrs of age should be weighed every month. If there is no weight gain for 2 months please check with the doctor.
● First 6 months the baby should be fed only breastmilk.
● Post 6 months add other foods in addition to breastmilk.
● Child under 3yrs needs at least 4 to 5 meals in a day.
● Same food should be served to the family and child with little modification in texture and addition of extra oil or fat.
● Children of all age need Vitamin A rich foods – greens, orange and yellow colour fruits and vegetables.
● Keep feeding your child even during illness and increase one extra meal for a week post-illness.
● In case you observe poor growth the reason might be inadequate food, repeated infection, illness and inappropriate care.