Active toddlers need nutrition-packed meals and healthy snacks.
Here’s our guide to what one-year-olds should be eating and some great ideas for toddler-friendly foods.
At a glance
- Toddlers have tiny tummies but high energy needs - so they need to be eating little and often
- If your toddler isn't eating that well at the moment, you may want to give them vitamin drops too
- The more you involve your toddler in family meals, the more likely they are to eat well
What should my toddler be eating and when?
Toddlers have tiny tummies but high energy needs - so they need to be eating little and often. Aim to give your toddler three small meals a day, as well as two or three healthy snacks like these:
- Bread and butter
- A ham sandwich
- Carrot and cucumber sticks with some breadsticks
- Crackers with cheese
- A banana
- A cup of milk - from 12 months your toddler can have full-fat cows’ milk as a main drink
All toddlers also need a vitamin D supplement each day. If your toddler isn’t eating that well at the moment, you may want to give them one with vitamin D, extra vitamins and iron as well– your health visitor will tell you where to get them.
A toddler's dinner plate should have much smaller portions eg. 1-2 fish fingers, 1-4 tablespoons mash, ½ – 2 tablespoons of peas
A sandwich serving should be something like a cheese sandwich (½ – 1 slice wholemeal bread), 1 – 4 cherry tomatoes
Image credit: Infant & Toddler Forum
Does it matter whether we eat together as a family?
The more you involve your toddler in family meals, the more likely they are to eat well - and maybe even learn good table manners too. So try to sit down and eat together whenever you can – remember, they’re learning to eat by copying you, so a simple mealtime is one big lesson in eating and socialising. Even if the toddler element means it gets fraught sometimes, eating together as a family is super bonding, giving you all the chance to chat and enjoy each other’s company.
My toddler is a bit of a fussy eater – what can I do?
If your toddler exists on a diet of plain pasta and pots of fromage frais, they’re not alone. When you’re one, life is so madly stimulating you can lose interest in eating for a bit. Toddlers are also notoriously suspicious of new foods which is normal because it stops them poisoning themselves by eating any interesting looking berry from a bush. And refusing food is a sure-fire way to get mum or dad’s attention as they leap up to encourage you.
Here are four great ways to encourage your wary toddler to tuck in:
- Serve up small portions – it’s less daunting and they can always have more
- No fuss - if your toddler doesn’t want their food, simply clear it away with minimum fuss
- Focus on food – it’s best to avoid distractions like the television or DVDs at mealtimes
- Be sociable – it’s good to sit with them with them, even if you’re not eating – but if you eat the food you want them to eat it will help
See more tips on how to cope with a fussy eater.
So why is calcium so important?
Calcium is a vital mineral for building strong bones and teeth. Ideally children between the ages of one and three need to pack away about 350mg of calcium a day – that’s three portions of milk, cheese or yogurt each day where one portion is about 120mls (3-4ozs) milk or yogurt.
Why is iron so important?
Toddlers who don’t eat well and carry on drinking large bottles of cow’s milk are the most likely to get iron deficiency anaemia. Keep milk, cheese and yogurt to just three portions a day and encourage lots of iron rich foods such as: red meat, dark meat of chicken and turkey, eggs, iron fortified cereals, ground and crushed nuts, nut butters and pulses –dahl, lentils and chickpeas. Dried fruit such as raisins and apricots are good too but keep these to mealtimes, not snacks.