The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia encourage parents to introduce toddlers to a variety of foods from the five food groups in order for them to get enough of the nutrients essential for good health. 

The five food groups are:

  • Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles (preferably wholegrain).
  • Vegetables, legumes.
  • Fruit.
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese.
  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes.

A wide variety of foods provide essential nutrients that are vital for a toddler’s development. For instance, iron is important for transporting oxygen around the blood; calcium is important for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth 

Iron can be found in red meat, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables, legumes and iron-enriched breakfast cereals. Sources of Vitamin C such as tomatoes, capsicum and broccoli will increase the absorption of the iron. It’s best to avoid excessive amounts of cow’s milk (more than 600mls a day) because it is a poor source of iron and can displace other foods (the toddler will feel full after drinking milk).

Calcium can be found in foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, legumes and fortified breakfast cereals. If your child is breastfeeding, they will still be getting sufficient calcium from breast milk and will be less reliant on dairy foods.

It is recommend that fats, especially saturated fats are limited in people’s diets, but when it comes to young children, fats are a valuable source of energy which toddlers need in relatively higher amounts than other age groups for their rapid growth. A major source of fats for children of this age is dairy products. Children under 2 years old should be given full-fat dairy foods (cheese, milk, yoghurt etc) rather than the fat-reduced varieties. Fats can also be found in margarines and other spreads, cooking oils, nuts and meats. Choose lean meats for your child and use good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils such as olive, sunflower and canola in moderation.

Toddlers are going through the transition from infant feeding to eating normal foods. So during this age, it is encouraged that toddlers be exposed to and learn to develop taste for a variety of foods. The regular family diet should be a starting point for this provided the family diet is healthy. It is also helpful for your toddler to start to establish a healthy relationship with food. Toddlers can choke on food so always supervise eating.

Source: Australian Government Department of Health


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