What’s a balanced diet for a two year old?
Eating a balanced diet for a toddler simply means eating from each food group, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Other cereals and potatoes
- Milk and dairy foods
- Meat, fish and alternatives.
This ensures that their diet contains all the required nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and protein, that their bodies need. This is especially important for young children as they rely on these nutrients to grow and develop properly.
Sugar and salt watch
Keeping the diet balanced also means generally choosing foods that are lower in sugar and salt, so eating boiled or baked potatoes rather than chips, for example, and choosing breakfast cereals that do not contain a lot of added sugar. It’s important to note that toddlers cannot cope with a lot of high-fibre grain foods such as wholegrain bread and brown rice. Because these foods are bulkier, they can make young children too full to allow room for other foods their bodies need.
While some 2-year-olds will eat larger portions than others, here is a guide to how often you should offer each food group:
- Breads; other cereals such as rice, pasta and cous cous; and potatoes – offer these at each meal and also for some snacks
- Fruits and vegetables – aim to offer five types each day, including them at each meal
- Milk and other dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt – serve about three times a day.
- Meat, fish, poultry, eggs and alternatives (such as nuts*, peanut butter*, lentils, beans and tofu) – offer once or twice a day for children who eat meat, fish and poultry, twice or three times for children eating just eggs and/or vegetarian protein sources.
Because toddlers have little stomachs, they often cannot eat enough at mealtimes to take in all the calories and nutrients they need. However, offering a healthy snack from the food groups listed offers an opportunity to top up energy and nutrient levels.
*Note that children under the age of five should not be offered whole nuts, and that these foods may not be suitable in cases where allergy is a concern.
Fiona Hinton is a registered dietician and nutritionist. With a Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics and over 15 years of professional experience, Fiona’s expertise covers all aspects of nutrition – from general healthy eating and what (and what not) to feed your toddler, through to medical issues such as lowering cholesterol. For individual advice you can trust, book a private phone call with Fiona at www.greatvine.com/fiona_hinton