80% of parents overfeed their toddlers. Even if you are part of the other 20%, what quality foods are you feeding your toddler? Most mothers feed their children ‘fillers’ throughout the day, blaming ‘pickiness’ or an unwillingness to eat meals.
It’s time for a wakeup call.
Our society is overweight, overfed, undernourished, and unhealthy, and we are supporting a generation to follow in our footsteps. Allowing our fast food, ‘need-it-now’ culture to dominate our diet is the reason our Standard American Diet is so realistically SAD.
Beginning at first bite, what we feed our toddlers plays a role in their future. Does this mean that toddlers actually go through a picky stage, or do parents create it with their own food selections for their children? Such a great question. A child who is never introduced to nuggets, French fries, or goldfish will never know they are an option.
Over 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. The foods that are consumed either empower and strengthen or weaken and impair the body to fight illness. Diet can either affect and trigger chronic problems or can heal the gut and prevent possible problems. This is true for even the youngest of guts.
There are many important things to note when developing a meal plan for a toddler:
- Existing issues
Eczema, asthma, ear infections, rashes, thrush, frequent colds/illnesses, constipation, etc. can mean the gut needs healing immediately. The gut is directly linked to the skin, the brain, and the nervous system. If breastfeeding, the mother should follow a GAPS or other elimination diet to help her toddler heal. If using formula, the parents will need to transition to a régime that begins with elimination diet foods.
- Food allergies
There are differing opinions and science on this subject, as some believe you should avoid historic allergens, while others feel they should be introduced early as a way to avoid reaction. While there are pros and cons to both, offering a food that is a known family allergen should not be taken lightly, no matter what point it is introduced.
- Family lifestyle
If you are a vegan or practice a nontraditional diet, it is important to ensure that your toddler receives high quality proteins. If you follow the standard American diet, look closely at what you are consuming and what example you are setting.
The toddler diet should include between 1000-1600 calories in a day, but don’t become consumed with calorie-counting. Instead, focus on the quality of foods consumed.
Each food should be introduced alone for at least 2-3 days to ensure there’s no reaction. Processed foods should be avoided. They may be easy, but processed foods cause the most damage to the gut. Gluten, soy and ultra-pasteurized dairy are other foods that should be avoided as well, even if they are organic. Skip sugary juices, and leave out anything labeled ‘low fat’ because it means that sugar has replaced the fat in the product.
High quality fats are vital in proper brain development and growth. Over 50% of a toddler’s daily calories should come from high quality fats. This equates to about 6 tablespoons of fat each day. Organic, free-ranged animal fat in the diet can lead to better temperments, a stronger immune system, as well as healthy muscles and bones.
Simple Healthy Fats to Include:
- Coconut oil
- Nut/seed butter
- Grass-fed organic beef
- Free-range organic chicken
- Raw milk/dairy
Fruits and Vegetables
Any fruit or vegetable is good for a child. Think about feeding them all the colors of the rainbow; leafy greens, berries, tomatoes, melons, etc. Whenever possible, buy organic, as the pesticides used on nonorganic can wreak havoc on the gut.
Any fruit or vegetable can be dipped in homemade dressing or hummus and enjoyed!
Fiber-Rich Whole Grains
Foods such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat will provide energy as they are digested slowly.
Altering a Toddler’s Diet
Many parents do not realize how important diet Is for their toddler until an issue arises. While there will be a detox period full of crankiness and possible refusal to eat, the outcome of a positive diet change will benefit everyone.
- Cook in real lard. Yes, real fat. Save your high quality, uncured bacon fat and fry potatoes or cook the eggs in it.
- Give whole fat dairy products with no artificial dyes, colors, or flavors.
- Use real butter on any and everything.
- Place diced vegetables (prepared in lard or other high quality fat) in eggs or whole grains.
- Dip fruit in a whole fat, unpasteurized yogurt.
Remember that variety is key, but it’s not necessary to prepare elaborate meals. There are enough whole food options that making avoiding processed items easy. The hardest part is overcoming the personal feelings of seeing other children consuming them.
Elizabeth is a passionate writer at My baby’s Heartbeat Bear, focused on educating those open to learning. She is also a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, natural childbirth educator, former teacher and current homeschooler to her four young children. Check out Elizabeth’s week by week pregnancy tips and parenting insights at her Pregnancy Blog.