In the first few months of your child’s life, you don’t have to worry about the different foods that your child needs. It’s simple because all that is required is either breast milk or formula. However, as your child grows up, their food requirements begin to change. They’re growing, and they need all the nutrients available for their development and good health. You must understand the different food groups for your little one, so you can start incorporating them into their diet. A lack of essential nutrients can lead to health and developmental problems, so it is best to make sure that your child receives a well-balanced diet that is chock full of nutrients.
Healthy eating habits from a young age have long-lasting effects that continue well into the future. Many ailments that stem from a deficiency of vitamins and nutrients can often be traced to a diet that is unhealthy or devoid of nutrient-rich foods. And when the ailments are diagnosed, it’s often a little late to fix them naturally. People have to resort to supplements and medications which at times may have side effects. So it’s best not to take that route. To make sure that your toddler gets all the required nutrition, ensure that the food items from the main five groups are being provided – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteins. So let’s dive in and get to know these food groups in more detail:
Vegetables are a part of every well-balanced diet, and there is a good reason for this. They are healthy, they do you so much good, and most importantly, they cannot be avoided. It is vital to incorporate a good amount of veggies into your child’s diet, and you can start with small steps. Vegetables are a perfect source of fiber, vitamins, water, and antioxidants. Introducing your child to vegetables now will protect them from certain diseases that they may encounter otherwise, later on in life, such as heart ailments, digestive problems, and low immunity, or even cancer. Making vegetables a part of your child’s diet will also get them used to it, thereby making it a good habit that they will thank you for later (1), (2).
Vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and peas are usually introduced to kids first as they are rich in nutrients and easy to consume (2).
Fruits aren’t just delicious; they’re super healthy as well. It might be easier to get your child to eat fruits than vegetables, so you don’t have to worry much about fussing here. They’re rich in minerals, vitamins, dietary fiber, as well as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are essential nutrients that are naturally found in plants. All of this can positively affect your child’s health. Like vegetables, a regular intake of fruits can also protect your child from ailments now and in the long run (3).
Try to add different kinds of fruits such as apples, green apples, kiwi, oranges, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, bananas, and watermelon. If your kid doesn’t like consuming fruits, it’s important that you find ways to make sure s/he eats them. You can make some tasty dessert or fruit salad that may get them interested. Making a delicious shake is also another way. If your kid prefers spicy food, you can always add a dash of sweetness and saltiness to the fruit salad. Be creative in this but ensure that they don’t miss out on the goodness of fruits.
Children in this stage in life require a good amount of calcium, and dairy is the best source for your child to get this critical nutrient. When we say dairy, we mean milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ghee, to name a few. The calcium present in dairy products helps strengthen, develop, and maintain your child’s bones and teeth. Dairy products also have a good amount of fat, which is also essential for your child’s body. Fats can help the body store a good amount of energy, absorb nutrients better, and protect your body from trauma (4).
Dairy is super important for bone health and development in growing children. However, if your little one is lactose intolerant, you can try alternatives. Soya and almond milk are great alternatives for cow milk and something you can experiment with. Tofu is also another great alternative for similar benefits.
4. Whole Grain Foods
It is essential to add whole grains to your child’s diet as they are a good source of fiber, minerals, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and plant compounds. Whole grains, thanks to their rich nutrients, can help with the growth and development of your child, prevent heart issues, lower the risk of strokes, support the digestive system, and reduce inflammation (5).
Make sure you use whole grains such as wheat, oats, millets, brown rice, and maize. You can begin with small amounts of whole grains at first and slowly increase the intake.
Remember how they say that proteins are the building blocks of the body? They truly are! Every single cell in your child’s body (and yours) contains protein. When you give your child enough protein, it goes into repairing and rebuilding the cells in the body. It also helps make new cells, which is crucial to the growth and development of your child (6).
Some protein-rich foods that you can include in your child’s diet are eggs, chicken, dairy products, low-fat cheese, yogurt, and soy. Even when you’re on a vegetarian diet, you will find plenty of products with protein sources. Soya products and pulses are also good sources of proteins. Make sure your child is getting an adequate amount of protein and if not, consult your doctor or nutritionist to suggest supplements that would fix the deficiency.
If you’re just beginning to introduce your child to these major food groups, talk to your doctor first. This way, you will know what exactly your child can have and if anything should be avoided. What are some of the healthy foods that your child loves? Let us know in the comments below!
- Vegetable and Fruit Acceptance during Infancy: Impact of Ontogeny, Genetics, and Early Experiences1,2,3, 4
- Study of the reasons for the consumption of each type of vegetable within a population of school-aged children
- Fruit and Vegetable Intake During Infancy and Early Childhood
- Role of Milk and Dairy Products in Growth of the Child
- Infant Cereals: Current Status Challenges and Future Opportunities for Whole Grains
- Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Infant and Young Child Nutrition: Protein and Amino Acid Needs and Relationship with Child Growth