How do I know my baby is ready?
How do I know my baby is ready?
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Chances are, they’re already crawling and ‘furniture surfing’ – soon they’ll be zooming about on two feet. A few teeth will have arrived, with more on the way. Your (not-so) little one will like to babble and copy you. You’ll have your hands full, but there’ll be lots to enjoy and be proud of too.

How should their diet be changing?
How should their diet be changing?

Your baby can still only manage small meals, but will be trying lots of different things. By now they should be having three meals a day plus one or two healthy snacks.

Throughout the first year babies need lots of calcium, around 400 to 550 mg a day. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium, so your toddler still needs either breast milk, or at least 500-600ml toddler/growing up milks per day, or at least 300-350ml (12oz) of whole cow’s milk. On top of this, try to give them 2-3 portions of dairy products every day, like full-fat yogurt, fromage frais or cheese.

Main meals should have a mix of food types similar to an adult’s. You can offer some as finger foods and the rest as proper meals.

  • Starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta or potatoes (at every meal)
  • Vegetables like broccoli, courgettes, carrots
  • Protein like pulses, eggs, fish, meat
  • Offer a fruit-based dessert after a meal

How much food do they need?

In terms of other food, aim for three small meals and two snacks a day – ideally one vegetable and one fruit. Encourage family foods where you can, offering water in a cup at mealtimes and whenever your toddler’s thirsty. Avoid giving tea as it can slow down their absorption of iron. Avoid to add sugar to the foods and fruit juice with added sugar.

Do they need it or not?

Fat – all that energy they use means children need a bit more fat in their diet than adults. Low-fat diets are not suitable at this age.

Vitamin D – supplements are recommended for all children until 5 years old, unless they are having 500ml or more of formula a day. Vitamin D supplementation should start at 6 months in breast fed babies.

Fibre – toddlers get all they need from fruit, vegetables, breads and cereals. So they don’t need very high-fibre foods like high-bran cereals.

What foods should I be giving at this stage?
What foods should I be giving at this stage?
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  • Milk and dairy – toddlers need lots of calcium, but this should now be coming from a range of sources. Keep giving them at least 300ml full-fat cow’s milk a day, offering 2-3 portions of dairy products like cheese, fromage frais and yogurt on top of this.
  • Meat, fish, eggs, nuts or pulses can be offered at each main meal and are good sources of protein and iron.
  • Starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta should be part of each main meal. You can give some wholegrain bread but try to avoid brown rice and wholegrain pasta as they’re high in fibre. Too much fibre can stop nutrients like calcium and iron being absorbed.
  • Cereals fortified with iron are still important. Add full-fat cow’s milk and some mashed fruit and always check the labels to avoid the ones with added sugar or salt. As for salt, make sure they have no more than 2g a day, or 0.8g of sodium.
  • Vegetables can be fresh, frozen or tinned. Give 3-5 toddler-sized servings every day, at least one with every meal. A serving is about 40g or a toddler-sized handful.

Fruit can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. Aim for 2-3 toddler-sized servings a day. Offer one fruit snack between meals and one fruit and dairy-based dessert after a main meal.

What foods should I avoid?
What foods should I avoid?

sugar – this includes cakes, biscuits, ice cream, sweets and sweetened drinks. The free sugar in sugary food and fruit juice can damage teeth, especially when in-between consumed between meal and too often. Avoid adding sugar to foods.

Whole nuts should not be given to children under the age of 5 years, due to the risk of chocking – ground nuts and nut butters can be used if there is no history of allergies in their immediate family.

Certain white fish (e.g. swordfish, marlin) and raw shellfish should be avoided

Eggs or foods containing eggs must be well cooked all the way through. Both the yolk and white should be solid.

Salt shouldn’t be added to their food. Try to keep an eye on the salt content of the foods you offer. Up to 3 years, children should have no more than 2g of salt a day – or 0.8g of sodium.

How do I encourage them to try new textures?
How do I encourage them to try new textures?
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  • Copying others can help create good eating habits. So try to eat together, serving the foods you want your toddler to eat. Encourage them to help themselves with a spoon or fingers.
  • Offer a variety of finger foods with different textures and serve meals on a plate so your toddler can learn to recognize and taste each ingredient. Let them explore the different tastes, shapes and colours of their food, too.
  • Praise them when they eat well but don’t encourage them to carry on when they’re full. This encourages them to enjoy their food without overeating.

Never let your toddler eat unsupervised and avoid offering foods that could cause choking, such as whole cherry tomatoes, whole grapes, popcorn and whole olives.

The big wide world of textures 

From about 12 months, your toddler will be able to eat most adult foods, so long as they’re cut into little, manageable pieces. You may also need to adapt some of your family recipes. As with flavour, keep on trying different textures to help them become a confident eater and less picky later in life.

How much milk do they need?
How much milk do they need?
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Although you can choose to carry on breastfeeding up to three times a day, you can now offer your little one cow’s milk in a cup as their main milk.  Aim for three servings of milk-based food or drinks a day. This can include full-fat cheese, yogurt, fromage frais, or milk-based puddings and sauces or 300ml whole cow’s milk. See the section called ‘What sort of milk should my toddler have?’ after the meal guide for more about when to switch from breast milk to cow’s milk.

Milk and dairy – toddlers need lots of calcium for the development of bones and teeth, but this should now be coming from a range of sources. It might help to know that the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of calcium for children 1-3 years is 400mg/day. Keep giving them at least 300ml a day, offering 2-3 portions of dairy products like cheese, fromage frais and yogurt on top of this. Try to avoid giving too much dairy though (including yogurts) as your toddler may lose their appetite for other nutritious foods and not get the fibre they need to stay regular. Offer milk drinks at the end of a meal or with a snack.

Protein – meat, fish, eggs, nuts or pulses can be offered at each main meal.

Iron - baby’s natural iron store begins to drop by 6 months, therefore it’s best to start feeding them iron-enriched food. Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb or pork or veggie sources like legumes or eggs are all excellent options.

Starchy foods – like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta should be part of each main meal. You can give some wholegrain bread but try to avoid brown rice and wholegrain pasta as they’re high in fibre. Too much fibre can stop nutrients like calcium and iron being absorbed.

Cereals fortified with iron are still important. Add full-fat cow’s milk and some mashed fruit and always check the labels to avoid the ones with too much sugar or salt.. As for salt, make sure they have no more than 2g a day, or 0.8g of sodium.

Veg and fruit – vegetables can be fresh, frozen or tinned. Give your little one 3-5 servings every day, at least one with every meal. A serving is about 40g or a toddler-sized handful. Fruit can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. Aim for 2-3 servings a day. Offer one fruit snack between meals and one fruit and dairy-based dessert after a main meal.