As part of the Organix #LoveGoodFood campaign to encourage little ones to explore, enjoy and share good food, Holly Bell has contributed to the Organix Little Book of Good Food – Toddlers & Families. She talks to M&B about getting toddlers to love healthy food.
What are your top tips for ensuring your toddler is getting a healthy diet?
Don't deny them flavours just because you don't like them
One of my first tips is to think outside the parameters of your own likes and dislikes. It's so easy to keep filling the trolley week after week with the same fruit, veg, meat etc. (I know I do this). We've all had a lifetime to develop our palates, whereas toddlers are just getting started. Don't deny them flavours just because you don't like them.
Secondly I'd think in terms of colour. The more the rainbow of colours each day from natural foods, the more likely your child is getting a good balanced diet.
Thirdly - try not to stress out if your toddler isn't keen on something or eats little for a day. A lot of them seem to be on 48 hour days. So for the first 24 hours they may eat like a horse, and the second they slow down.
Which essential nutrients do toddlers need?
By giving your child a varied diet containing a selection of foods from the different food groups every day, you will provide all the essential nutrients they need. Key nutrients toddlers need include Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Iron and Zinc.
>> Read about Holly’s weaning campaign, Babies Who Lunch
What are the main food groups a toddler requires?
There is no such thing as an ‘ideal’ portion size for all toddlers. A large active toddler will need more food than a smaller, less active child and some days they will eat more than usual, or next to nothing, but it all should balance out over a week or so.
If your child is growing well and developing normally, then do not worry too much about how much they are eating, even if it seems quite limited.
Each day aim for 5 portions of starchy foods, 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 3 portions of dairy foods and 2 portions of meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses (3 if vegetarian).
Tell us a bit about your own boys’ eating habits.
My sons are all so different. I have one who will try anything and is in love with fruit and veg. He also has a very sweet tooth and loves any homemade treats on that front though has been known to leave cakes we've had when out if the icing is made with margarine or the cake is overly dry. He has made comments about being a chef one day so who knows!
His repertoire of fruit and veg is very limited
I have another son who has zero interest in sugar. He's a meat man. Loves traditional meals, especially anything involving Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. His repertoire of fruit and veg is very limited. He loves apples, bananas, blueberries, carrots, sweetcorn and broccoli - and not much else. Of course that doesn't stop me trying him with new flavours regularly.
And my third son is just a baby and loves most things we put in front of him. Apart from carrots - he really dislikes carrots!
Are any of your boys fussy eaters?
One of my sons has been a really fussy eater over the years, though he is getting better now. I have tried not to make a big deal of it, to keep offering new foods, even if they've been turned down before and not to enter into any kind of negotiation with him over food. He is not rewarded for trying something new in any way other than light praise.
My top tips for dealing with eaters like him are to take a deep breath, count to 10, remember it is NOT personal and remember, this too shall pass.
>> READ: Top tip for fussy eaters
What are your top tips for making eating and cooking fun for toddlers?
They always had their own spoon, a little bowl and two tablespoons of flour with some form of spice to mix up
Cooking a tasty meal with toddlers helping can be a challenge! For me it’s about age appropriate helping. When the boys were under two they mostly put the vegetables on the chopping board, we talked about colours, textures and they always had their own spoon, a little bowl and two tablespoons of flour with some form of spice to mix up. They didn’t actually contribute very much to the process of cooking dinner, but they thought they did, and that’s what matters.
Try these tips:
- Choose recipes where they can get involved. Sounds obvious but anything where the main bulk of the time is spent deep frying or slicing with a mandolin is only going to end in bored tears.
- Allow some autonomy. Imagine never being able to deviate from a recipe? Life would be boring. It’s the same for kids. If they suggest adding a little onion to a dish why not try it?
- Think of a meal like a good story; it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It starts with discussing, planning and shopping, it builds to the actual food preparation and the cooking and it ends with laying the table, taking drinks orders (the unadulterated happiness of a child with a piece of paper, playing waiter is beautiful) and clearing plates.
- Get a little messy. Let your little one squash a tomato or squeeze an orange while you are cooking.
- Always, but always have a tea towel and/or wipes on standby for wiping up!
What are your favourite breakfast recipes to take toddlers beyond cereal and toast?
Blueberry pancakes are popular at the weekend
I think we have to rethink breakfast and remember you can eat pretty much anything as the first meal of the day - you're just breaking your fast. So whilst porridge is popular so too is regular rice with some ham and corn thrown in. Fruit is a big hit and is easy to prepare and eat too when it's a busy morning. Blueberry pancakes are popular at the weekend. Eggs too - in all their forms. And when we're running late Organix Goodies oaty bars are wolfed down by all my sons.
How can we make snacking more exciting for toddlers than just breadsticks?
Argh! Breadsticks are both a God-send and a hindrance. They're far too easy to reach for, fill kids up easily and don't offer the nutrients other snacks do. But we all do it - when the kids are hungry they're quick and easy. I'd suggest keeping a little pot of carrot sticks in the fridge in some water to grab, try some unsweetened dried fruit - maybe pineapple and mango or some cranberries too to mix things up.
Or how about some cheese cubes and cucumber sticks? If you're at home then some cold carrot, corn or courgette fritters are always a good call. And on the go I always reach for Organix Sweetcorn Rings. We all love them!
You’ll find lots more practical advice and tips to help you and your little one explore, enjoy and share good food in the Organix Little Book of Good Food – Toddlers & Families, you can download your free copy here: www.organix.com/lovegoodfood. As part of the campaign Organix has also produced a series of Love Good Food short videos, you can watch them here: #lovegoodfood