Tips for Optimal Toddler Nutrition

Is your child interested in the food the rest of your family is eating? Find out why nutrition matters for toddlers and why, when it comes to diet, children aren't just small versions of adults.

Your child's diet can have a positive influence on his or her development. Most parents have heard this at least once before. But scientific research showed just a couple years ago how sustainable is the influence of nutrition on the health future of a child. The international scientific community has identified the first 1,000 days as a particularly important phase during which nutrition has a long-term effect on the future development of children. This means that an age-appropriate and varied diet that provides your toddler with all the essential nutrients can have a positive impact on future health - right into his adult life.

Here in Germany, it is relatively easy to provide your child with enough variety. After all, Germany has the best conditions for optimal child nutrition. Yet studies show that toddlers are often lack of certain nutrients. On average, the intake of iodine and vitamin D in food for small children in Germany is sometimes considerably below the recommended daily values: on average, only 51 percent of the recommended iodine and even only 6 percent of the recommended vitamin D intake per day are covered through diets. The reason for this is often a lack of variety on the child's menu.

A balanced diet provides children with enough of all the nutrients they need

Nutritionists specialized in children nutrition recommend to feed toddlers a balanced, age-appropriate diet in order to support healthy development during the first few years of life. But what does this mean in practice? It sounds easy to demand that toddlers get home-cooked meals consisting of high-quality, natural foods. The reality, however, is that toddlers in Germany often eat too few vegetables and foods rich in carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, potatoes and whole wheat bread. On the other hand, foods with "empty calories" (e.g. sweets, white bread, baked goods) and foods with high amounts of protein and salt (e.g. meat, sausage and cheese) are eaten too much. This can cause toddlers to not get the nutrients they need for healthy development.

Here's how to make sure your child gets what they need

From about month 10 onward, your child will begin to show more and more interest in the foods the rest of the family is eating – this is a good time to start transitioning them, step by step, to family foods. An essential part of an optimal diet — based on expert recommendations for toddlers — are regular meals in portion sizes that are appropriate for the age of your child, as well as a balanced variety of foods.

It's important to keep one thing in mind: toddlers aren't tiny adults. Rather, they need an age-appropriate supply of all important nutrients, which often differs significantly from the needs of adults.

Of course, adults are much bigger and heavier than toddlers, and they need more nutrients per day — at least when you consider the total amount eaten each day. However, if you look at the nutrient demand of a toddler relative to his or her bodyweight, then you see that they actually need two to five times as many nutrients as adults do. Moreover, a toddler's stomach can be up to five times smaller than that of an adult — that's about the size of a mandarin. This means that toddlers need to obtain all the essential nutrients they need from much smaller portions of food and in much more concentrated forms. This serves to emphasize just how important high-quality food is: quality matters simply because it's not possible to meet a toddler's demand for nutrients in terms of quantity.

Iodine and Vitamin D

Did you know that in Germany, on average only 51 percent of the daily recommended amount of iodine and 6 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D are provided by the food toddlers are eating? Iodine is a micronutrient and is necessary for the development of the thyroid hormone, which is important for the growth and development of the brain.

A balanced toddler diet? Variety is what counts

Of course, you cannot keep track of all the nutrients your child is getting every day. However, it could be helpful to know which nutrients are contained in which food. Doing this will make it clear just how important it is to provide a good mix of foods on your child's menu. This will also allow you to keep track of whether your child has been getting everything he or she needs. The following rule applies: a balanced and varied diet of fresh foods normally provides all the nutrients a child needs. 3 servings of vegetables and / or beans and 2 servings of fruit are ideal every day. One portion of vegetables is about 50 g (raw food) or 90 g (cooked), one portion of beans is about 60 g and one portion of fruit is about 50 g. Milk continues to be important during this period. The recommended daily milk intake toddlers is between 300 and 330 milliliters. Special growing up milk, which is formulated to meet the special needs of children in growth phases, can be used to supplement a balanced and healthy diet, this setting the foundation for a healthy future.

The German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ) has developed the recommendation about the compositions of growing up milk, which is tailored to children of one year old or older. Aptamil growing up milk is the first growing up milk for children from one year old following DGKJ's recommendations. A high-quality milk product that supports you in providing your child with everything he or she needs.

Infos for Optimal Toddler Nutrition

  • Early life nutrition has considerable influence on child growth.
  • Healthy building blocks: eating right during pregnancy, breastfeeding exclusively during the first 6 months, healthy toddler nutrition.
  • The toddler daily recommended amounts of vitamin D, folic acid, iron, polyunsaturated fatty acids and iodine are often not adequately fed through the diet.
  • Toddlers need an age-appropriate supply of all important vitamins and nutrients that differs from the needs of adults.
  • As part of a balanced diet, growing up milk can make contributions to the age-appropriate nutrient supply of small children.
  • Parents should make sure that children's milk contains vitamins and micronutrients in an optimal amount.

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Contact our Aptacare expert team. Our experts are nutritionists, midwives and pediatric nurses, and all of them are mothers too. Specially trained breast-feeding experts will be happy to advise you on all your questions regarding breast-feeding.