The toddler years indicate a period of transition between 12-24 months when toddlers are developing their taste buds by getting acquainted with a variety of foods. Breastfeeding which took care of all the nutritional requirements during infancy, gets replaced by newer foods such as mashed potato, banana, cheese, milk and legumes. Depending on age, size and activity levels toddlers require around 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day. It is important to introduce nutritious foods in their diet in order to inculcate healthy eating habits.
Full-fat milk stands among the top foods to be included in the diet of a toddler for gaining weight since it is high in calories as well as provides an excellent blend of nutrients. The protein content in milk assists in muscle growth and development along with boosting the immune system whereas the calcium and Vitamin D content plays a crucial role in building strong bones. For toddlers who are allergic to cow's milk, soy milk can be a good alternative.
Bananas are an excellent nutrient and calorie dense food which appeal to the taste buds of toddlers. Bananas are rich in potassium, fiber and Vitamin B-6, a nutrient vital for normal growth and development of the brain. Golden banana and Kerala banana, both are brimming with the goodness of carbohydrates and energy. Bananas can be given in pureed form to toddlers after 8 months and can be added in pancakes or porridge. A 100 gram serving of raw banana provides 89 calories
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes are among the most loved vegetables, especially with toddlers. They are an excellent source of energy, with a 100 gram serving of boiled potato providing 87 calories with 20 grams of carbohydrates. They are a good source of potassium which plays an important role in functioning of muscles and Vitamin C which strengthens the immune system.
Sweet potato is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a nutrient promoting eye health and Vitamin B-6 and magnesium which help boost the functioning of the immune system by combating infection.
Yogurt and Cheese
Yogurt packs in a bevy of nutrients like Vitamin A, calcium, protein and Vitamin D which play an important role in skeletal development and assist healthy weight gain. Additionally, yogurt is a probiotic food which balances gastrointestinal flora and regulates the digestive system, keeping diarrhea and constipation which are common among toddlers at bay.
Being an important source of vitamins, minerals and healthy fat, cheese is one of the nutrient and calorie dense foods for a healthy weight gain.
Eggs are an ideal food for toddlers. Egg whites are a rich source of protein whereas the egg yolk is a powerhouse of B-complex vitamins particularly folic acid and Vitamin B 12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, zinc and iodine. With 7 grams high-quality protein in a medium sized egg, they support optimum growth and development in toddlers. Fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein, Vitamin A and Vitamin D, all of which give toddlers an immunity boost. Small fishes like sardines are abundant in calcium, which is vital for stronger bones. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon and mackerel promote brain development.
Nuts and Dry Fruits
Nuts and dry fruits are among the most nutrient and calorie dense foods for toddlers. Boasting of an array of nutrients like B complex vitamins, Vitamin E and healthy fats, an ounce (28 grams) of nuts provides approximately 160 and 190 calories. They are rich in magnesium and phosphorus, two minerals vital for building strong and healthy bones. Most nuts and dry fruits are abundant in Vitamin E which plays a crucial role in developing a strong immune system and healthy red blood cells. Using ground nuts can help rule out any choking hazards.
High-protein and low-fat legumes are a nutrition powerhouse packed with the goodness of nutrients like fiber, zinc, iron and folic acid, which aid in healthy growth and development of toddlers. The high magnesium content in legumes plays a key role in energy production, which keeps toddlers active and energetic throughout the day. They are a healthy alternative to meat and a versatile ingredient that can be made into patties, khichdi, soups, stews and curries.
Other healthy and high-calorie foods that must be included in the diet of a toddler to gain weight include:
Ragi - A fiber and calcium and iron-rich millet
Peanut Butter - Brims with the goodness of Vitamin E and healthy fats
Chikoo (Sapota) - A fiber and Vitamin C-dense fruit which is packed with energy and helps boost immunity and keeps cold and cough at bay
Olive oil - Omega-3 and Omega-6 rich food which is essential for myelination of nerve fibers and brain development.
Since dairy products, eggs, fish, nuts and peanuts are common allergens it is important to look out for any symptoms of allergy such as hives, flushed skin, rashes, swelling of face or lips, vomiting, diarrhea, and wheezing.
Include a minimum of 3 servings of cereals, 1 serving of meat or legumes, 2 servings of dairy products, vegetables and fruits each on a daily basis.
Provide 6-8 glasses of fluids, especially water in a day to ensure adequate hydration.
Whenever you are introducing any new food in the diet of toddlers, serve just a tablespoon of it with the meal. If he likes it, then you can feed him more instead of serving a generous amount the first time.
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