How to get your toddler eating a variety of foods

 Helen O’Callaghan hears of new ways to get your child eating a wider variety of food.

Ballincollig mum of two Jessica Crowley admits she stereotyped her 22-month-old son Jack Forde when it came to food.

Jack has always been a “great eater”. Sausages were his absolute favourite but he loved fruit and yoghurt too.

“I was getting into a bit of a rut. He was eating the same thing all the time. Breakfast was very repetitive — toast and fruit. 

"I lacked the motivation and inspiration to try different things. I’d worry if I gave him something different he wouldn’t eat it and then I’d be stressed, so I gave him what I knew he’d eat.”

Jessica’s family was one of seven nationwide to take part in the Toddlebox Challenge. With research finding 67% of parents have experienced fussy eating with their toddler. 

Almost 50% have abandoned a meal due to toddler tantrums or refusals to eat.

Toddlebox is a supportive online community for parents who find mealtimes a struggle.

During the Toddlebox challenge, families filmed their toddler’s mealtimes on iPad over two weeks to capture the reality of mealtime highs and lows. 

Dietitian Sarah Keogh worked with the families to tailor meal plans specific to their daily lives in a bid to improve their toddler’s fussy eating tendencies and nutrition. 

The information was then shared on www.toddlebox.ie with other families seeking advice/ tips on feeding toddlers.

What has most surprised Jessica is that Jack loves fish. 

“I never gave him fish, unless it was fish fingers. With Toddlebox, the recipe one day was salmon and cod chowder – I said ‘he’s not going to eat that’. He licked the plate! ”

Doing the challenge has revolutionised Jack’s mealtimes in other ways too. 

“Being a busy mum, I’d resort to the easy way out. Especially at lunchtime, I’d let him eat in front of the TV. Now I sit down and eat with him at least four times a week,” she says.

Jessica now gives Jack a lighter meal in the evening — a sandwich and fruit and feeds him a heavier meal at lunchtime. “I’ve swapped around the light and heavier meals and he sleeps a lot better as a result.”

One in four one-year-olds aren’t getting the recommended amount of iron, a key nutrient for brain development. 

The Toddlebox challenge found the same in the toddlers they met — they were also not getting sufficient Vitamin D. Toddlers require almost four times more iron than an adult per kg of body weight per day and five times more calcium and Vitamin D than an adult.

TOP TIPS

* Reduce fluid intake/snacking between meals.

* Give toddler-tailored fortified milk to ensure increased iron, Vitamins D and C and calcium intake.

* Develop daily routine of three meals and two to three snacks around toddler’s sleeping pattern.

* Avoid rushing mealtimes — don’t leave meals until he’s over-hungry or over-tired.

* Toddlers enjoy and learn if you eat together as a family.


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