Eat These, Not Those: The Toddler Edition

When you think of the typical diet of a toddler, there are some common foods come to mind; however, the food industry has created many toddler-suited kids with cupcakes foods that may not always have a toddler’s nutrition needs in mind.For every not-so-great toddler food, there is a better choice.

Below is a list of toddler foods that have more nutritious alternatives:

  • Say no to: Flavored yogurts packaged for on-the-go.
    • These may contain artificial food coloring and some have up tp 20 grams of sugar or more per serving.
  • Instead, tryPlain yogurt with fruit and a little maple syrup or honey stirred in. Only feed honey to kids that are older than 1 year of age.
  • Say no to: Fruit snacks.
    • These often have artificial food coloring and minimal nutritional value as they are made of sugar or corn syrup, gelatin and other chemicals.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit. Dried fruit is a great source of fiber. Try a variety, such as cranberries, blueberries, mangoes, strawberries, cherries and peaches.
  • Say no to: Processed meats.
    • These are often high in sodium and most have nitrates. Nitrites used as preservatives can form carcinogenic compounds during digestion.
  • Instead, try: Nitrate and Nitrite-free hot dogs and lunch meat. High quality products that are made of 100% meat without additives are a better alternative to processed meats. You may also forgo the processed part and stick with whole, cooked meats.
  • Say no to: Juice, especially if it is not made with 100% juice.
    • Kids do not need juice every day for nutrition. Drinking juice displaces room for other healthy foods.
  • Instead, try: Plain milk with meals and water throughout the day.
  • Say no to: “Puffed”snacks.
    •  Again, these snack foods often do not offer much nutrition and can take-up room for other more nutritious foods.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, or whole grain cereal pieces.
  • Say no to: Processed cheese.
    • If cheese comes in a package, read the label and take caution if there is anything other than milk, salt and enzymes.
  • Instead, try: Real blocks of cheese, grated or sliced by yourself or by the deli.
  • Say no to: Peanut butter products.
    • Read labels. If you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”, the peanut butter includes trans-fats. These are particularly unhealthy fats that are highly susceptible to oxidation in the body, which leads to generation of free radicals that can contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Instead, try: Peanut butter or other nut butters that have only nuts listed in the ingredients.
  • Say no to: Cereals, specifically those with 10 grams of sugar or more.
    • The sugar content of some of kids-themed cereals should ultimately be categorized within the dessert aisle, rather than the cereal aisle.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Say no to: Fast food, specifically the burger, French fry and chicken nugget variety.
    • Fast food, especially fried fast food, is high in sodium, calories and saturated and/or trans fats. Fast food is often chosen out of convenience.
  • Instead, try: Packing a lunch from home when you know you will be on the go.
  • Say no to: Candy, especially when given as a reward.
    • Many parents use candy as a bribe for potty training, for eating vegetables or for staying quiet in the shopping cart at the grocery store.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit or a non-edible reward like stickers, stamps, crayons or hildren’s books.

It is the caregiver’s responsibility to make good nutrition choices to offer to children. Children, as they mature,  will then choose foods from the foods they are most often exposed to from an early age.  For more information on feeding toddlers or how to manage picky eating, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment.

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