Balance and variety are key when it comes to toddler teatimes, but what does balance actually look like? It’s helpful to think about food groups, and to make it easier we use the “5,5,3,2” rule across the day.
FIVE carbohydrate portions
Carbohydrates are bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, and ideally your little one will have some of these at every meal and snack time. Mixing it up during the day and including both wholegrain and white varieties means they’ll get both the fibre and energy they need.
FIVE fruits and vegetables
One of the easier ones to remember, as it’s the same for all of us! ‘Eat the rainbow’ applies here – every different colour of fruit or veg provides a different nutrient.
We particularly love broccoli, because it has the most vitamin C and iron of all the vegetables (and vitamin C helps iron absorb in the gut). Carrots are another favourite – half a large carrot provides your toddler with all the vitamin A they need in a day!
THREE dairy portions
1 portion is 100ml milk, 1 pot of yogurt, or 2-3 tablespoons of grated cheese. Remember that full fat cow’s milk should be given from 1-2 years of age. After this, semi-skimmed can be given, but not skimmed.
If your toddler is dairy-free, make sure plant-based alternatives are fortified with calcium and that they’re having white fish once a week to provide the iodine that’s also found in cow’s milk.
TWO portions of protein
(If you’re bringing your little one up vegetarian, three portions are advised.)
If you’re providing three meals and two snacks a day, it can be helpful to remember:
- one carbohydrate and fruit and veg with every meal and snack;
- dairy at every meal;
- and protein at lunch and dinner.
It’s also important to remember that this is just a guide: some days we’re out and about and it’s not so simple! To keep track, some parents find it useful to keep a checklist. This means that if one day ends a little low on protein, you can add an extra portion the next day, or use your checklist when meal planning.