Encouraging lifelong healthy eating habits

Toddlerhood is an important developmental stage that provides health-care professionals with an opportunity to monitor the growth, weight, and development of these young patients and to guide parents on the essentials of healthy eating habits and behaviors.3 

This is especially important given that 25% to 35% of parents and caregivers of preschoolers report feeding problems among those children, such as refusal to eat or slow eating, which causes concerns about providing a healthy and nutritious diet.3,33

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Parents should be reassured that young children adjust their energy intake to their needs and usually demonstrate a normal growth pattern despite their eating preferences and behaviors.3What is important is the availability of healthful food choices for toddler meals and snacks, repeated exposure to new foods, and positive parent or caregiver modeling to foster good nutritional habits (see box at left).3An example of a daily recommended meal pattern for an 18-month-old child is presented inTable 3.

Table 3.  Sample recommended daily meals for a typical 18-month-old child*.3

Breakfast 1 slice whole-wheat bread
1 soft-boiled egg
2 oz orange juice
Snack 1 medium apple, sliced
2 oz whole milk
Lunch 1 slice whole wheat bread with ½ tablespoon peanut butter
2 oz whole milk
4 raw baby carrots
Snack ¼ cup dry cereal
½ oz cheddar cheese cubes
Dinner ½ cup cooked pasta,
¼ cup spaghetti sauce with 1 oz lean ground beef
3 broccoli spears 4 oz water
Snack ¼ cup canned fruit cocktail in juice
¼ cup low-fat fruit yogurt
Nutritional information
825.4 (estimated energy requirement: 783.3)
25.5 g (28% of calories)
39.5 g (4.1g/kg body weight)
15 g

*Child is 29.5 inches tall and weighs 21 lb, 5 oz.


Clinicians who manage the care of children aged 1 to 3 years play a critical role in ensuring that the nutritional needs of these young patients are met. Identification of CMPA and management of the condition with extensively hydrolyzed formula, even into toddlerhood, are essential to avoid GI and dermatologic complications and provide necessary protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. 

The transition from a milk-based diet in infancy to a more omnivorous diet in toddlerhood provides an opportunity for health-care professionals to make recommendations for establishing healthful food choices and behaviors that will meet the energy and nutritional requirements of children during this period of rapid growth and development. Iron and vitamin D deficiencies, suboptimal intake of DHA, and excessive consumption of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar are nutritional problems often encountered in the toddler years. 

Good nutrition from birth not only has a profound impact on physical growth and on cognitive, motor, and social development, it also provides the foundation for good health into adulthood.

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All electronic documents accessed July 7, 2014.