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Building a balanced plate for your toddler

Let our nutritionist take you through how to build a balanced plate for your toddler.

As Little Freddie’s in-house nutritionist, I’m delighted to be working with them to help develop nutritionally balanced, organic products that give your child everything they need to thrive in their early years. Having a balanced diet is important at any age. Whilst there is no one way to achieve this, eating well from the start helps set babies, toddlers, and young children up for a happier and healthier life, as well as building positive relationships with and around food.

The balanced plate concept is a useful guide to both the types and proportions of each food group that we, as parents, should be aiming to incorporate into our children’s diets on a daily basis. This ensures that they are getting balance at each meal and throughout the day too. From the ages of one to three years children need three meals and snacks each day in the right balance and in portion sizes that reflect their body’s needs. A simple way to understand what a portion might look like is to use the hand technique, which bases portions on the size of their hands.

So, what does a balanced diet look like for toddlers? As with adults there are five main food groups that we need to focus on at each meal and across the day.

  • Fruit and vegetables: Children should aim for five or more different portions of fruit & veg each day, with a higher ratio of veg to fruit. One portion is about the size of their handful. These are important as they are full of essential nutrients such as vitamins & minerals needed for the body to function healthy. Try to ensure that your child eats as wide a range as possible - this can include fresh, frozen, or tinned (in water or juice without the added sugar or salt).
  • Starchy carbohydrates: Where possible try to include wholegrain, higher-fibre starchy carbohydrates like brown rice and pasta, oats, couscous, as well as potatoes at your child’s mealtimes. Little Freddie’s latest range of delicious high fibre grain pouches provide a source of starchy carbs, zinc and plant-based protein too, plus they count as one of your 5-a-day that helps to increase diet diversity! Starchy carbs are good for the slower release of energy, helping keep your little ones fuller for longer, and avoiding any sharp increases in their blood sugars. Aim for five portions each day with a portion being a large handful for your child. Remember though that higher fibre foods may fill little tummies too quickly or could cause stomach upset if introduced quickly with overly big quantities.
  • Dairy and alternatives: Dairy such as milk, yoghurts, fromage frais, and cheese are important as they contain calcium and phosphorus which is needed to help keep bones and teeth healthy. Aim to include three portions (roughly a large palmful) every day. For most toddlers there is no need to offer low-fat options as children of this age need lots of energy for growing and physical activity. If you give your child dairy-free alternatives, ensure these are fortified with vitamins and minerals and avoid products with added sugars and salt.
  • Protein: This is essential for growth and development in babies and young children and can be found in pulses, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas, quinoa, tofu, eggs, fish, and meat. Each day try to aim for two portions, each roughly the size of their palm, and if they follow a plant-based or vegetarian diet then up this to three portions.
  • A small amount of fat: Unsaturated fats, also known as ‘healthy’ fats, from foods such as avocado and olive oil should be eaten in small amounts, no more than the size of their thumb. Something to be mindful of here is the quantity of red and processed meat that your child is eating at each meal, as these are often high in saturated fats (the less healthy kind). Limit saturated fat to 10% of your child’s overall daily calorie intake. Try steaming, grilling, or baking foods rather than frying them to help reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed.
  • It’s also important that children remain hydrated, as this helps to absorb nutrients, keeps them fuller for longer, and is needed by almost every process in the body. Always make sure you offer water with every meal and at regular intervals throughout the day.

Here are some delicious, easy, and balanced meal ideas for you to try.

  • Creamy Coconut Grains Dahl mixed with our Butternut Squash, Red Lentils & Coconut pouch topped with chicken, steamed vegetables, and Greek yoghurt

  • Italian Tomato Grains served cold with peppers, cucumber, and crumbled feta

  • Sweet Pepper Grains with egg muffins, apple wedges and nut butter

Make sure you check out @littlefreddieuk for some more tasty plates.

Like me, Little Freddie is on a mission to make mealtimes as simple and nutritious as possible for parents and children alike. Feeding your little ones doesn’t have to be complicated, which is why their baby food and grain pouches offer balanced and varied options, not just for nutrition but for taste, textures, and flavours too!

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