As they transition from babies to toddlers, children experience an incredible amount of growth and development, with major leaps in language abilities and motor skills. By age 2, children have reached about half of their adult height and their brains are 80% of the size of adult brains!
Toddlers need good nutrition to power their growing bodies and brains. The eating habits and taste preferences that began in the earlier part of the 1,000 day journey continue to be shaped by what and how young children eat. Toddlers pride themselves on being independent eaters so parents have an important role to play in teaching them healthy eating behaviors and attitudes towards food. Using mealtime routines and having family meals can provide opportunities to introduce and encourage nutritious foods.
Toddlers should be eating three meals a day with one to two healthy snacks in between. It is essential that a toddler’s diet include a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and proteins.
Just as important however is what should not be in toddlers’ diets: sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas and fruit-flavored drinks, and foods and “snacks” that contain excessive sugar, fat and salt. Unhealthy eating is a serious concern as it is contributing to a dramatic rise in the levels of obesity in toddlers and young children. Young children who are overweight or obese are much more likely to be obese as adults and are at increased risk for serious health problems in adulthood, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
What You Need to Know
- A nutritious diet is essential for the healthy growth and development of toddlers.
- Toddlers learn from their parents’ and peers’ eating behaviors and attitudes toward food.
- Teaching healthy eating habits now will have a big payoff in the future.