As the weaning stage starts winding up and the child gets increasingly inclined towards solid foods, it is the time to take the diet from breast milk or formula feed to what the family eats. After the first birthday, it becomes imperative that the toddler be offered a variety of wholesome foods from different food groups.
A right mix of carbohydrates, eggs and lentils, vegetables, fruits and milk products is what is needed to support the child’s growth and development. However, this is also the age when the child’s desire to be independent and in control shoots up and mealtimes start becoming a challenge. The concerns about your toddler’s feeding pattern, choices and frequency are well justified.
While planning a toddler’s diet, it helps to know that the child is not growing as fast as they were in the first year and hence their energy needs, appetites and the quantity of food eaten are going to be lesser. So, if your toddler is healthy (not catching infections too often), active and completing milestones normally, then perhaps he is eating enough and you need not worry.
An average toddler needs around 1200-1300 calories per day (smaller kids may need a bit less while the bigger ones a little more).These many calories can be achieved by having around 5-6 servings of grains (breads, cereal, roti), 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruits, 2 from milk and milk products and perhaps another 2 from pulses or meats. The point to be remembered here is that the serving sizes are much smaller for young toddlers and can in fact be considered as one fourth of an adult serving.
A common reason for toddlers not eating much is that they are drinking too much of milk or fruit juices. If the toddler is having 4 cups of milk and 3 cups of fruit juice every day, then this only amounts to 1350 calories and no wonder then that he is not hungry for anything else and is termed a picky eater.
Avoid providing more than 350-400 cal from milk and not more than 60-70 cal from juices, so that you would have a balance of 700-900 cal for the day, which can be easily divided in three meals and two snacks. Bread slices with cheese, orange juice, moong dal khichdi with vegetables, banana, eggs, milk, dals, yoghurt etc are a few healthy meal options.
Simply keep offering a variety or new foods in small quantity, keep a watch on his milestones and activity levels and encourage regular physical activity. Do not worry when the child doesn’t finish everything on his plate, eats only a few favourite foods in a day or refuses to eat the elaborate meal prepared by you.
The only time when you start worrying is when the toddler is not gaining enough weight or is not very active.