{GUEST POST} Toddler Eats | A Balanced Diet

Toddler Eats is a fun little series where I dive head first into the facts, figures, and tricks of feeding a toddler. I’ll also be including quite a few recipe ideas specifically for our little sweethearts – ranging from the baby-led weaning stage through preschool. If you have a recipe (with photos) you’d like to share I’d love to feature you in one of the installments of Toddler Eats – just send me an email with your idea! 

Today, Christine from African Babies Don’t Cry is sharing a great resource all about the major nutritional requirements for toddlers. Enjoy!

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I am so excited to be contributing a post to Gretchen’s toddler nutrition series. This is a topic that is very close to my heart, I am constantly thinking about what my toddler, Jesse, consumes and how it contributes to his glowing health. A few months back I posted a very popular printable with all the major nutritional requirements for toddlers on my blog, African Babies Don’t Cry, and here I will be sharing it again.

Jesse is now 22 months old and still nurses enough so that it contributes to his daily caloric intake. I love the freedom nursing gives me from worrying about whether he is getting enough calories etc. Toddlers are picky eaters naturally, they eat when they are hungry, and don’t when they are not. Their hunger pays no attention to regular meal times or even days. Some days Jesse seems to not stop eating and others he barely consumes more than breastmilk. There are many reasons for this, teething, growth spurts and so on. It is unrealistic to expect your toddler to adhere to meal times, rather feed on demand, thus promoting a healthy appetite. I am constantly offering Jess healthy food choices. And he always has a choice, banana or peach?

I have formulated a guide on the major nutritional requirements for young toddlers (aged 1 – 3), which I have printed and stuck to my fridge. This way, on a daily basis I can check what foods Jess needs to eat to have a balanced diet. I have shared it below. If there are readers with older children please contact me for their requirements at christine [at] africanbabiesdontcry.com.

I state the highest RDA, which by the way are minimums, not maximums, for each vitamin. I also include protein as it is so important for growth, but beware of feeding your child too much protein, and aviod animal protein which is acid forming and promotes health problems. Although not vegan, we adhere to a mainly vegan diet.

Click here to view in a new window and print. 

If you take a quick glance at the requirements, you will see that leafy green veg are super important on a daily basis (spinach, kale, etc). Raw is always better, as the nutrients remain intact and superior. But, it is so difficult to get your toddler to eat raw leafy veg, and their little digestive systems do battle to break down the fibrous leaves. I have the answer though, green juice. Juice up your greens, add an apple for taste, et voile! A drink that contains the majority of your toddlers daily nutritional needs. See here for my favourite recipe for green juice. You don’t even need to own a juicer, use a blender and simply strain through a sieve. Jesse loves to drink his through a straw, but you may also offer it with a spoon.

Jesse eats fruit as the bulk of his diet. Fruit is a perfect food and even contains protein and fat. Make sure that the base of your toddlers diet is fruit, is you want them to have naturally abundant energy and health. Mix it up, no-one likes to eat boring old apples and bananas every single day. Look out for colourful exotic fruit (preferably organic) as they often are highly nutritious.

I also try to keep the majority of Jess’s diet raw, as food is most nutritious in its raw state, but he also enjoys the odd cooked gem squash and butternut.

I have introduced superfoods into Jess’s diet, most of which I add to fruit smoothies, along with hemp seed protein powder. They bridge the gap where our over-farmed lands, and pesticide laden produce is lacking.

Jesse also eats the occasional egg, scrambled or boiled for vitamin K2.

I have also started supplementing Jess’s diet, as our food just isn’t as nutritious as days gone by. The important supplements I have added in on the print out, but see this post for more information on supplementing your child’s diet.

A few things he doesn’t eat is sugar, complex carbohydrates, animal protein other than the occasional egg or any other refined or processed food.

What are your children’s favourite healthy foods?
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Christine is a teacher turned work-at-home mom to her beautiful son, Jesse. She lives in South Africa and is passionate about bringing up her son as naturally as possible. Christine blogs at African Babies Don’t Cry where she often writes about natural nutrition and toddler health. She keeps busy by volunteering for the Natural Parents Network, being an avid gardener and a healer in training. You can also find her on facebook.

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  1. Marisa @ Hippie Safa says

    Thanks for this! My 11 month old loves fruit and I often wonder if I should limit her intake because of the sugar, but seeing this, makes me feel a lot more confident in letting her have free rein! We do give her a wide variety of fruit – her favourites are grenadilla, strawberries and guavas. Oh and she does love banana – can eat an entire one in a sitting!

  2. Marisa @ Hippie Safa says

    PS: Going to try the green juice – very curious to see what it tastes like.

  3. ThatMamaGretchen says

    I don't think I've ever tried guava with Jemma – I'll need to do that soon! Thanks for sharing :)