What and How Much to Feed Your Toddler
Experts explain how to provide toddlers with the nutritious food they need for their growing bodies.
Feeding Toddlers: What About Multivitamins? continued...
Multis with vitamin D may be in order if your toddler doesn't get the recommended 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
The body makes vitamin D; its production is initiated in the skin by strong sunlight. Living in a northern climate increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency in children and adults, making the case for supplemental vitamin D compelling.
Few foods other than milk are good sources of vitamin D. Some good ones include:
- Cereal, ready-to-eat, fortified: 40-60 IU for 3/4 to 1 cup.
- Fortified orange juice: 50 IU for 4 ounces.
- Eggs, whole (yolk): 20-40 IU for one large.
Feeding Toddlers: How Much Salt?
Zied and Altman agree: Children should become accustomed at a young age to the natural flavors of food rather than to a salty taste.
But it may come as a surprise that the salt shaker is a minor source of sodium in the American diet.
Processed foods, including toddler favorites such as hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets, provide 75% of the sodium we eat.
Too much dietary sodium has been linked to high blood pressure in adults. Research suggests a lower sodium intake during childhood may lessen the risk of high blood pressure with age.
While it's a good idea to avoid the salt shaker, it's even better to cook from scratch as much as possible. "Limit processed products and season food with herbs and spices to cut down on the salt in your family's diet," Zied advises.
Feeding Toddlers: How Much Sugar?
It’s not possible to totally escape sugar. Natural sugars are present in some of the most nutritious foods, including fruit, veggies, and milk.
But a bigger concern is the overall quality of the food. Whole foods have many nutrients to offer. Processed, sugary foods -- such as candy, cake, and cookies -- are often packed with fat and lack other nutrients. Added sugar is found in healthier choices also, such as breakfast cereals, yogurt, and snack bars.
Zied says older children get upwards of 25% of their calories from sugar, far too much to ensure nutritional adequacy.
"Generally speaking, sugary foods are OK in small doses," Zied says.
She suggests avoiding soft drinks and limiting fruit juice intake as well as serving no more (and preferably less) than 25 to 38 grams of added sugar a day, the equivalent of two to three Oreo cookies.