Are You Overfeeding Your Toddler?
It's no revelation that waistlines of Australians (and that includes our toddlers) have been expanding. Part of the problem is undoubtedly how much we’re putting on our plates.
For young children (aged 4 to 7 years old), the recommended, daily minimum number of serves of the five food groups are shown below. There are no specific recommendations for children under 4 years old as yet, but this should be able to give you a basic idea:
- Age: 4-7
- Breads or cereal -- 3 serves
- Vegetables or legumes -- 2 serves
- Fruit -- 1 serve
- Milk/yoghurt/cheese -- 2 serves
- Meat or alternatives -- 1/2 serve
We have a tendency to pile our dinner plates like we’re sumo wrestlers and even when we’re full, there’s a little voice inside our heads encouraging us not to waste food. We're programmed to eat everything on the plate -- after all, there are children in Africa who would kill for a decent meal.
Are you setting your toddler up for a lifetime of weight issues by overfeeding your child?
The NSW Population Child Health Survey report established that it is essential to prevent and manage obesity in toddlers as there is a high possibility the problem will persist into adulthood. Obese children have a 25-50 per cent chance of being obese adults.
The Australian Government is encouraging kids to "Go for 2&5" -- two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables, but just how big is a serve?
Examples of what a serve means for each food group
- 1 serve of bread or cereal = 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of cooked rice, pasta or porridge
- 1 serve of vegetables = 1 cup of lettuce or salad vegetables or 1/2 a cup of green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli or spinach, or 1 medium-sized potato
- 1 serve of fruit = 1 cup of canned or chopped fruit or 1 medium fruit such as an apple, a banana or 2 smaller pieces of fruit such as apricots or 1-1/2 tablespoons of dried fruit
- 1 serve of milk = 1 cup (250ml) of milk or custard, 1 small tub of yoghurt
- 1 serve of meat or alternative = 65-100g of cooked meat or chicken, 2 eggs, 1/2 a cup of cooked beans
Healthy eating tips for toddlers
Don’t insist your toddler eats everything on the plate or use threats like "you’ll get it cold for breakfast tomorrow" or "you’re not leaving the table until it’s all gone". Children need to learn to respond to their body’s natural signals of fullness and hunger in order to develop healthy eating habits and be able to control their food intake.
Refrain from using foods as bribes. For example, don’t say "No ice cream and jelly unless you finish everything on your plate". This will make dessert more desirable and what's left on the plate less desirable.
Finally, the biggest influential factor in any toddler's eating habits is whether or not you lead by example.