Between the ages of 1 and 3 years a toddler gains a staggering 40% in height and weight and a significant amount of brain & organ development occurs. Quality of the diet in the early years has been linked with cognitive development, poor behavioural patterns, obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in later life. Therefore, optimal nutrition is required during this time frame to support the important developmental processes taking place within your toddler’s body.
The recent Irish National Pre-school Nutrition Survey (NPNS) found that almost one quarter of Irish toddlers were overweight, almost one quarter of one year olds had inadequate intakes of iron, and the majority of Irish toddlers were not getting enough vitamin D from their diet. Also, salt intake was exceeding the Food Safety Authority of Irelands (FSAI) daily salt targets for all age groups.
Tips to help ensure that your toddler is getting the correct nutrition:
- Offer a wide variety of foods in their diet from the four main food groups (Starchy carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, rice), fruits & vegetables, dairy (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt) & protein rich foods (e.g. beef, chicken, fish, eggs, alternatives)
- Include iron rich foods in their diet, such as red meat, dark green leafy vegetables & fortified foods
- Ensure that oily fish like salmon or tuna is included in their diet at least once a week. Oily fish is a great source of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids
- Read food labels to ensure that the foods you are offering your toddler are not high in salt or sugar. A food is low in salt & sugar if it contains:
Less than 0.3g salt per 100g/100ml
Less than 5g sugar per 100g solid food or
Less than 2.5g sugar per 100ml liquids
- Sugary foods (e.g. cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, and confectionery) and savoury snacks (e.g. crisps) are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt but low in vitamins and minerals. They are therefore not recommended in your toddler’s diet.