It’s important to remember the foods that you offer your baby and toddler influences their taste preferences and eating habits. So keep offering nutritious foods even if they refuse to taste them the first few times.
Toddler food to limit…
- fried food, crisps, packet snacks, pastries, cakes and biscuits to very small amounts
- sweet foods to four times a day e.g. as part of the three meals and one snack.
… and toddler food to avoid
- sweetened fruit squashes, fizzy drinks, tea and coffee
- undiluted fruit juices – only give juice well diluted at meal times
- whole nuts – they may cause choking or be inhaled.
Toddlers naturally prefer high calorie foods, particularly sweet foods however, you should limit these types of food to small amounts to avoid excess weight gain. For example, a whole packet of crisps or other packet snacks is too much fat with too few nutrients for your toddler. If you do offer crisps, only give very occasionally and just 4-6 crisps is enough. Other sources of excess fat include fried foods, food cased in pastry, cakes and biscuits. These should also be limited so that lower fat foods are used more frequently e.g. fish in a fish pie or baked or grilled chicken rather than fish fingers and chicken nuggets.
Frequent intakes of sweet food and drinks are associated with a higher risk of dental caries. To help prevent tooth decay in your toddler, limit sweet foods to less than four episodes each day, such as three meals and no more than one snack as this will significantly reduce the the risk of dental caries. Remember too that fruit juices and smoothies are high calorie, high sugar drinks and although slightly more nutritious than other sweet drinks, they are just as likely to cause dental caries. If you give fruit juice always dilute it with about 6-10 parts water to 1 part juice. If you give smoothies give one as a pudding. Both juices and smoothies must be included within the four episodes of sweet food and drinks in a day.
Food safety is very important in preparing food for your toddler. Make sure meat, fish and eggs are all well cooked. Whole nuts and soft round pieces of foods are a choking hazard but toddlers can choke on any food if they are moving around while eating so your toddler should always be supervised and seated at meal and snack times.
The Food Standards Agency also advise that children under five should not eat swordfish, marlin and shark as these large fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury over their long lives.
For more information on how to encourage healthy eating, check out our the NowBaby toddler section.
There’s also further information on healthy eating for toddlers, including practical tips and advice on portion sizes, planning meals, and offering snacks and drinks on the Infant and Toddler Forum website.