As your little one grows, their nutritional needs will shift, as well as your meal times. To begin with, your little one will mostly eat single foods during their weaning journey and then there will be this turning point where they start eating similar meals to adults. This can be overwhelming as you may feel you’re back to the beginning with ‘What do I feed them?’.
This article delves into the who, what, why, when and how of feeding your little one whilst thinking about the rest of the family, too.
Why are mealtimes so important?
These times of the day are important for giving your child the nutritious fuel they need to power their busy days. But they’re also super important to build a positive relationship with food that will set them up for life.
Why is the correct nutrition so important?
Your little one is constantly growing into the adult that they’re going to be. We see this when they begin to grow out of their clothes or shoes, but inside their bodies, there are so many different processes going on- setting them up for adult life.
There’s emerging research that your child's future health is highly dependent on the first 1000 days of their life. It’s during these days that the possibility of obesity or the status of their mental health can be impacted.
What do toddlers need to eat?
Similar to adults, toddlers need to have nutrients from the three major macro groups; protein, fats, and carbs. They also need accompanying micronutrients from a varied diet.
"My culture has been feeding spicy, fragrant foods to their young for centuries."
A handy daily guideline is 5+ portions of fruit and vegetables, 5 portions of starchy carbohydrates, 2 portions of dairy and 3+ portions of protein. This is very similar to what adults need for a healthy, balanced meal. And the parts that aren’t, such as 2 portions of dairy, are super easy to pad out with a dessert or a snack.
You can get into the weeds of each daily amount of micronutrients that your toddler needs, but that adds a lot of stress for parents during what is already a stressful time! Variety is key to ensuring they get everything that they need.
Also, note that there’s no evidence that infants are unable to tolerate spices or strong flavours (Mann & Truswell, 2002). These early days are all about getting a variety of flavours and textures available for your little one to explore. My culture has been feeding spicy, fragrant foods to their young for centuries.
When should toddlers eat?
There’s no harm in feeding your toddler before you eat, but it’s always good to expose them to the whole family eating together every now and again. This teaches them through modelling behaviour about sharing a meal together. Otherwise, this is a major part of their future life that they’re not being exposed to.
How do I meal plan?
My top tips are to plan out what you would normally eat and then work your toddler's healthy meal around this. This is much easier than working the other way around.
For example, I might have dahl and rice for dinner one night. I’ll cook this for the family, taking a portion out for my little one before ramping up the spice in my version. Over time and as they get older, they will get more accustomed to the stronger spices.
"...the freezer is your best friend. Having some meals to grab on occasion is a life-saver when your adult food is not suitable for your little one"
I like to always have some yoghurt, fruit and veggies in my fridge to add to my little one’s meal. It helps make sure they exceed their 5 a day and is super helpful for entertaining them when you’re cooking or they’re hungry.
Finally, the freezer is your best friend. Having some healthy and nutritious frozen meals to grab on occasion is a life-saver when your adult food is not suitable for your little one.
As you move out of the weaning stage, it’s time to make that transition to your little one eating similar food to you. This will make your life a lot easier and hopefully mean you spend less time in the kitchen. My Veggie Bubba's healthy, plant-based meals are also good to have in the freezer for those days you really want some adult food!
Visit our online shop to stock up on some weekly staple meals for your little one.