Fussiness notwithstanding, feeding a toddler is a fairly simple business. Most of the foods that were off-limits during the baby stage are safe beyond 12 months, and only a few potentially problematic foods remain, meaning that by and large, your toddler can eat the same as the rest of the family. So what can you now give to your growing child, and which foods are still best left on the shelf?
Once your toddler is 12 months old or over, it’s fine to introduce:
- Full-fat cow’s milk as a drink, replacing breastmilk or formula
- Soft-boiled and lightly cooked eggs
- Small amounts of saltier foods like ham, bacon, sausages
- Soft, unpasteurised or blue cheeses like brie and parmesan
- Family foods like breakfast cereals, although it’s still best to stick to low-sugar types
Foods to avoid
- Raw eggs, for example in dishes such as homemade mousse: they still carry a risk of listeria food poisoning.
- Whole or chopped nuts. These are a choking hazard and shouldn’t be given to children under five. In addition, you may want to avoid giving your child seeds (such as seeded bread), nut butters (such as peanut butter) and ground nuts (used in some cakes and biscuits) until three years if you have a history of food allergy, hay fever, eczema or asthma in your family.
- Sugar. To avoid the risk of tooth decay or encouraging a sweet tooth, added sugar and sugary foods or drinks should be kept to a minimum. In particular, you should always dilute fruit juices with one part juice to 10 parts water, and give juices and squash only at mealtimes and never from a bottle. Try to avoid giving too many biscuits, cakes, sweets and sugary cereals, too.
- Salt. Children aged one to three shouldn’t exceed 2g salt a day, so don’t add it to cooking or to your child’s plate, and avoid salty foods like crisps.
- Low fat or low calorie foods. Small children are growing fast and using lots of energy, so their bodies need foods that are high in calories. Diet foods also often contain artificial sweeteners and flavourings which some research suggests could cause health or behavioural problems.
- High fibre foods. Brown and wholegrain foods like brown pasta, brown rice and cereals containing bran can prevent your child from absorbing crucial nutrients, and also fill him up too quickly so he doesn’t eat enough. You can, however, give him brown bread.
- Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk. These are too low in fat and essential vitamins for young children. Semi-skimmed milk shouldn’t be given to toddlers under two years old, and skimmed is unsuitable before the age of five.
- Adult ready meals; processed foods and sauces; salty, processed meat like sausages and ham. Although your baby is likely to be joining in with family meals by now, try to keep salty foods like these to a minimum to avoid damaging his immature kidneys.
- Tea, coffee or cola. Children are particularly sensitive to the stimulating and dehydrating effects of caffeine, and it can also interfere with the way in which their bodies process vitamins.