Toddlers usually fall into one of two categories: the notoriously finicky eater or the omnivorous eater who will devour anything set before him. Both eating styles have their advantages but also disadvantages. For example, the finicky eater may be able to better pace himself and graze in keeping with his body’s needs. The structured eater is sure to get a well-controlled mix of nutrients and calories — even if the body does not need them right then.
Printables Make Nutrition Easy (or Easier) at Home
Introduce a nutrition chart to help your children make the connection between food and healthy bodies in a visual manner that should support what you talk about when shopping and preparing food.
The best printable toddler nutrition chart still comes from the United States Department of Agriculture. Introduce the colorful poster during a sit-down activity and help your child recognize some of the foods he commonly eats. Examples include bread and rice for the grain group, tomatoes and potatoes for the veggies, apples and pineapples for fruits, milk and cheese for dairy and eggs, while drumsticks and ham make up some of the protein group.
An accompanying coloring sheet that features the updated “My Plate” chart now makes it possible for the child to draw or glue in pictures of food choices he is familiar with and in so doing transfers theoretical learning into hands-on practice. For example, a child may choose to glue the cutout of a bowl of steaming rice into the grain group. Encourage the toddler to try new things, such as new grains or fruits that maybe he has seen the grandparents eat but has not yet tried himself. Give the child an opportunity to report back after trying a new food that fits into one of the food groups.
Moving from the Pyramid to the Plate
In the past, the food pyramid was big on measuring out pieces of chicken and counting pieces of bread. Once the child has a firm grip of what constitutes healthy food choices, it comes time to allocate them the right space on the plate. After you fill half the plate with a kid-sized portion of fruits and vegetables, add grains and protein to the other half. Remember that there are differences in the grains! Kids Health suggests serving half the grain portion as a whole grain like brown rice.
Yet no matter how well the child understands the importance of healthy eating and good food choices, bear in mind that a toddler nutrition chart is a generalized picture of ideal eating for an average child. Natural grazers can still get all of their nutritional intakes met simply by being offered a variety of foods throughout the day. Health conditions or growth spurts may result in occasionally increased caloric intake, as does increased physical activity.