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Toddler Portion Sizes: Are You Getting Them Right?

Balancing your toddler's nutritional needs with their boundless activity.

19/12/2016 09:55 | Updated 20 December 2016
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Maybe unsurprisingly, toddlers need to eat little and often to get the nutrients they need. So, how much food should you be giving your toddler to make sure they have a balanced, varied diet containing everything they need to be healthy?

Toddlers have different nutritional needs from adults

Your adult body needs a varied, balanced diet to maintain and sustain it, whereas your toddler’s body needs it to lay down the foundations for the future. Your toddler’s weight and height are increasing and their bodies are maturing, so their nutritional needs are specific. An example of this is the additional calories that come from drinking whole milk  – you may prefer to use skimmed yourself, but your toddler needs whole milk up to two years of age. Toddlers need a varied, balanced diet consisting of foods from the four main food groups (starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, dairy and protein) in portion sizes that are appropriate for them. Offer small portions to start with, as some toddlers find big portions overwhelming. They can always have seconds, although most toddlers decide for themselves when they’ve had enough.

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How often should your toddler eat?

It’s recommended that toddlers have three meals, and two healthy snacks every day: breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and tea or dinner. Offer drinks along with meals and snacks – water and milk are good choices.

How much starchy food should your toddler eat?

Starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, breakfast cereal, rice and pasta should form the basis of your toddler’s meals. Aim for five portions of starchy foods a day - one at each meal and in snacks. A portion is around a quarter to one slice of bread, a quarter to half of a cooked potato, or two to four tablespoons of cooked rice, pasta or couscous. Your toddler might enjoy half or a whole scone or scotch pancake, and one or two rice cakes or oatcakes as snacks.

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How much fruit and vegetables should your toddler eat?

Give them a rainbow of fruit and vegetables: green beans, broccoli, peas and spinach, oranges, blueberries, tomatoes, squashes and sweetcorn. Fresh, frozen, tinned and dried all count, but keep dried fruits (raisins, dates and dried apricots) for mealtimes, or as one daily snack as they are high in sugar. Toddlers should have five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, one at each meal, such as: half to two tablespoons of cooked veg, two to six carrot sticks, or half an apple, orange or pear. You may find they’ll manage a whole clementine or banana, or a handful of strawberries as their snacks.

How much dairy should your toddler eat?

Give your toddler three portions of dairy foods a day, such as: 100ml of whole milk or growing up milk, a 125ml pot of yogurt, one cheese triangle or two to three tablespoons of grated cheese.

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How much protein should your toddler eat?

It’s important that toddlers have two portions of protein every day (three if they are vegetarian). Give half to one slice of lean beef, pork, chicken or turkey, two to three tablespoons of lentil dahl or baked beans, a boiled egg or peanut butter on a slice of wholegrain toast. Serve fish twice a week for example, one to two fish fingers and a portion of oily fish - a small fillet of salmon or half to one tablespoons of sardines - are ideal.

What about fats?

Toddlers need some fat in their diets from foods such as whole milk and other full fat dairy foods, oily fish, spreads (especially those fortified with vitamin D) and some vegetable oils. However, cakes, biscuits and many fried foods are high in fat and usually low in other nutrients, so give those to your toddler only occasionally as part of a varied, balanced diet.

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Aptamil Growing Up milks contain:

  • Iron to support normal cognitive development
  • Vitamin D and calcium for normal bone development
  • Iodine which contributes to the normal growth of children

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