Give your toddler the best start in life

As your baby becomes a toddler, they will gradually join in more and more with family meals. While there will be times when your child cannot quite cope with the food you're eating and will need their own meal prepared for them, over time your child will gradually start to eat the same food as you. Full fat, whole pasteurised milk is highly recommended for your child to drink until the age of two and half.

However, if your toddler's eating patterns aren't good and you feel that they may not be getting enough nutrients from other foods, experts recommend continuing the drinking of full fat milk until the age of five. Encouraging your child to eat new foods is also important. By offering your toddler new food in small amounts, you will very quickly find out what they like and dislike. Most toddlers go through a "faddy" phase as well, only eating certain foods.

However, with some gentle encouragement, your child will soon enjoy experimenting with new foods as well as continuing to love their favourites. It is also important to remember that toddlers have far higher energy needs than adults and cannot go for long periods without food. They are growing at a rapid rate and using an incredible amount of energy moving around and exploring.

Therefore, a small, healthy snack such as a sandwich, a drink of full fat milk or a high energy fruit like a banana, is perfect for keeping your child's energy levels up between meals. While it's important to know what foods to give your growing toddler, it is equally important to know what not to feed your child. Whole nuts should be avoided due to the risk of your child choking on them. Also, if there is a history of peanut allergy in your close family it is strongly recommended that peanuts, and related products, be avoided until your child is three. Highly salted foods are also a no-no for toddlers. Developing a taste for salty food early on in life may lead to health problems later on in life.

Ready made meals and sauces are also to be avoided due to them possibly containing large amounts of colourings and flavourings unsuitable for children. Healthy toddler food includes plenty of energy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and cereals, fruit and vegetables and small amounts of cheese, meat and poultry. On the whole you can be guided by your toddler's preferences, but try to remember to re-introduce foods your baby has rejected ? they may change their mind a week later! .

Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys travelling.

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