Nutrition is a never-ending pressure point for parents and caregivers.
Am I doing the right thing? Are treats allowed? What if my baby isn’t getting all the right foods for healthy growth and development? How do I handle a toddler who’s a fussy eater? There are so many questions and uncertainties and answers aren’t easy to find. It can also be tricky to implement a healthy meal plan for babies and toddlers on a consistent basis because real life can sometimes get in the way.
Everyone knows that healthy eating in childhood is vital for a child’s good health, growth and development, it lessens the likelihood of them developing some chronic diseases later in life and it sets the up to make their own healthy choices as they get older.
But sometimes things go a little awry - like your child overloading on the sugary treats at a party or resorting to feeding them pizza and chicken nuggets because you’ve had a hectic day. That’s OK - as long as you get back on track and do what you can to give them the best foundation for healthy development. And if you use a childcare service, it’s important to trust that they’re doing the right thing in terms of providing optimum nutrition for your precious baby or toddler.
So let’s look at meal planning for babies and toddlers and outline some broad guidelines.
As a start, children should eat from the five food groups as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Obviously, if your child is allergic or intolerant to certain foods, or if you have particular food preferences (eg vegetarian or cultural preferences), it’s best to get professional advice from a doctor or dietician.
The five groups are:
- Vegetables, legumes (eg chickpeas and lentils) and beans
- Cereals - preferably wholegrain (including bread, rice, pasta and noodles)
- Protein - lean meat, fish, poultry (or alternatives)
- Milks, yoghurt, cheeses (or alternatives)
As a baby grows, they will move from a milk diet onto solids which include a variety of the food groups listed above. From around six months, babies can start trying solids - starting with pureed or mashed foods - and progressing to coarser textures and a variety of tastes. Remember to avoid foods that have a high risk of choking and always supervise your children when they’re eating.
Here’s a basic guide for menus and foods of appropriate texture for your baby and toddler:
Birth to around six months old - liquids only. Breast milk or infant formula.
Around six months old - start with pureed or mashed foods and move onto slightly lumpier, coarser or finely chopped ones. You can introduce iron-fortified infant cereals, eggs, soft fruit, cow’s milk in food (not as a drink), yoghurt, rice etc. Some research points to increased allergies in children if the introduction of solids is delayed beyond seven months, so it’s always best to consult a professional if you have any concerns or preferences.
Around eight months old - you can offer your child finger foods and grated and chopped foods to encourage self-feeding. Diced bits of tender meat, sliced hard boiled egg, pieces of soft cooked vegetables, diced soft fruit, grated apple, grains such as bread and pasta and grated cheese are some suggested menu items for this age group.
Around a year old - your child can eat foods from your regular family menu, with a variety of textures and tastes. You can also introduce cows’ milk as a drink from this age.
As mentioned earlier, you can control what foods you give your family at home, but it’s really important that you trust your childcare provider to offer age-appropriate nutritious food and drinks for adequate energy and healthy development.
Menu planning is something that Treasured Tots Early Education takes extremely seriously at their child care centres in Mandurah, Fremantle and Bibra Lake. Their professional team understands the importance of optimum nutrition for a healthy future and all of their meals and snacks are carefully planned and prepared to meet the children’s needs - including those with allergies and specific dietary requirements.
For more information on Treasured Tots Early Education or to make an appointment to visit a child care centre in Mandurah, Fremantle and Bibra Lake, please contact us.