Feeding Toddlers from 12 to 24 Months

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Feeding toddlers from 12 to 24 months is all about transition. Some are weaning off the bottle or breast to a cup. Most are moving from baby food to what the family eats. Many lose interest in the high chair by the time they turn 2. At this age it’s official: your baby is now a toddler.

Transitional to do’s:
–Gradually cut out bottles and switch to a cup. Offer plenty of water between meals. The AAP recommends moms breastfeed for at least a year while the World Health Organizations recommends 2 years. Do what’s right for you and your family.

–Your toddler’s diet will be similar to what the whole family eats, but watch for choking hazards. Gradually increase the consistency of food as they get older, cut up food into small pieces and always supervise at mealtime.

–At one year of age most toddlers eat 5-6 small meals per day (3 meals and 2-3 planned snacks).

–It’s okay to give toddlers whole milk at one year of age – 2-3 cups per day unless you continue to breastfeed.

Nutrition Considerations:
–Growth tapers off considerably at one year of age so appetite may decrease. Toddlers may get picky (skeptical of certain foods) around 18 months.

–Emphasize animal sources of food – meat, poultry, eggs and fish – as they are rich in iron and zinc, key nutrients your child needs to thrive.

–Include vitamin A and C-rich sources of fruit and veggies. Emphasize foods rich in B vitamins including B6, riboflavin and folic acid.

–Provide full-fat dairy products until children are 2 years of age as they need essential fatty acids in higher fat foods (30-45% fat diet). If there is a history of obesity in your family, ask your pediatrician about using reduced fat milk instead.

–If you only feed your child plant-based food they likely will need supplementation as there is an increased chance their diet will be low in iron, zinc, B12 and calcium. Check with your pediatrician.

–Consider buying organic produce as your child’s nervous system and brain are still developing – see this list from the Envrinmental Working Group to decide when to buy organic vs. conventional.

–Emerging research shows that insufficient vitamin D plays a role in the development of a variety of diseases including diabetes, autoimmune disorders and certain cancers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfed toddlers and any older child consuming less than one quart per day (4 cups) of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk, should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day.

–Toddlers no longer receive omega-3 essential fatty acids (DHA) from breast milk or formula and will benefit from additional omega-3 fatty acids through fatty fish intake, food fortification or supplements (150-200mg DHA/day). Consider whole milk/dairy products that contain DHA which plays a key role in brain development.

–Emphasize nutrient-dense foods. Once your toddler gets closer to 2, they will have more room to fit “fun foods” into their diet.

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Next tutorial — Feeding Toddlers from 2 to 3 Years Old

References/Resources

Lipid Screening and Children’s Cardiovascular Health

AAP Toddlers’ Diet

AAP Policy Report on Vitamin D for Infants and Children