Feeding fussy toddlers can be challenging, frustrating, and exhausting. It’s not just about the food refusal, the complaints, or the waste. Worrying that they’re not getting enough nutrients totally adds to the stress and anxiety at mealtimes.
What if all they eat is nuggets, plain pasta, toast, and some fruit? Whilst there’s nothing wrong with those foods, and many toddlers go through picky phases, their growing bodies are going to need some additional vitamins and minerals to keep them going.
Toddlers are busy, curious, and going through a phase of rapid growth and development. To meet their nutritional needs, they require the following (among other nutrients):
What we don’t really want to be doing is getting in the habit of ‘sneaking’ extra nutrients into the foods they actually do eat…because they will find out! They’re clever like that. Hiding ingredients can set them up to be suspicious about food, and perhaps even cause some trust issues in your relationship. Neither of which we want, and will only worsen their attitude towards trying new foods.
However, if we can be transparent about boosting their nutrient levels, give them some power and choice over what they eat, while having some fun with it and avoiding any pressure, it can help them to be more open to exploring food in a positive and calm way.
Here are some ways to boost toddler nutrition:
If your toddler likes smoothies or milkshakes, run with it! It’s a great way to get some additional protein and other nutrients into them. A good place to start is to look for a specially formulated toddler milk drink that contains essential vitamins and minerals to support their growth, development, and immune system.
Invite your toddler to help make the smoothies, and choose the ingredients that go into it. Give them a selection of fruit that they could help cut up and throw into the blender. If they like peanut butter, pop that in too for added protein and good fats. For the chocolate lovers, add in a little cacao (rather than cocoa), which is a great source of minerals. Dates or honey (for toddlers over 12 months) are tasty sweeteners for any smoothie.
By nature, toddlers love to snack. They usually prefer to eat little and often to keep them fueled and their tummy full (but not overly full). Sauces and dips can truly be your secret weapon when it comes to snack time or mealtime!
Offering dips and sauces provides an opportunity for toddlers to ‘play’ with their food and give them some autonomy over what they eat and how much they have in a fun and tasty way.
It’s best if you can make your own as the shop-bought options often contain all kinds of artificial additives, but if you go for the commercial ones, look for those with the most wholesome ingredients (and less of the numbers and nasties).
Here are some ideas:
Provide a few ‘sprinkle’ options (not the colourful variety) with their favourite foods so they can have some fun with it. For instance:
Sometimes just making a few swaps for more nutritious options is a simple strategy to boost toddler nutrition. Here are some suggestions:
Just because a child doesn’t like a food in one form doesn’t mean they won’t try it a different way. Change the texture, flavour, and presentation, and you may well be surprised. Some ideas are:
Toddlers love to play and have fun, and mealtimes shouldn’t be any different. Here are some quick tips: