It is probably easier to name dozens of healthy foods that we know than to choose 5 foods that we think are the best to feed toddlers. The fact is, majority of fruits and vegetables are healthy and are indeed great foods to feed your toddlers. Some types of fishes, poultry and nuts are too. But they definitely are not equal in terms of healthiness. Some should certainly appear more often than others in your toddler meal plan.
Oatmeal is known for its water-soluble fiber and complex carbs that slow down digestion and keep the glucose level in our blood stable. Because it digests much slower than carbohydrates in fruits so it will fuel your active toddler with a steadier energy stream throughout the day. Also the beta-glucan in oatmeal has been concluded to help lower cholesterol level (the full research can be found here). Another research also shows that spatial memory skills increased by 59% in children who eat oatmeal compared to those who don’t. These make it why oatmeal is one of many great foods to feed your toddlers.
There are many ways to serve oatmeal to your little one. You can make oatmeal porridge (it takes 10 minutes with quick oats) and serve with fruits, honey and any topping of your choice as breakfast. Alternatively cookies (like this one), energy bars or cupcakes are excellent way to incorporate this fiber-rich grain into your toddler’s diet.
Salmon is a great source of essential fatty acids (omega-3) that are known to be good for our heart as well as to reduce risk of depression. A great deal of Decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – a structural fat that makes up 30% of the gray matter of our brain – is found in salmon.
Unlike adults, toddlers need much more fats in their diet for healthy (brain) development and growth. According to the Institute of Medicine’s Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR), 25-40% of a toddler’s calories should come from fats (for the detailed report, check this link). Make sure your kids get enough healthy fats from salmon and other oily types of fish, nuts, avocado instead of the types of fat (saturated fats and trans fat) that increase their cholesterol level and cause heart disease if consumed too much.
You probably picture those sugar-filled chocolate bars when you hear “cocoa”. That is not the type of cocoa I would ever advice you to give to your toddler. I am talking about raw cocoa that contains a great deal of antioxidant compounds that prevent our body from being premature destructed by extreme exposure to light, heat, air…etc. Among others, it also contains a very high level of flavonoids, which is known to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss (for more health benefits of cocoa see here). A recent study also shows that frequent cocoa consumption can improve cognitive function and neuromvascular coupling.
My favorite way to add cocoa powder to my daughter’s diet is through this chocolate mousse . But you can also sprinkle raw cocoa powder on waffles, toast, pancakes or make sugar-free chocolate cookies or hot cocoa drinks for your toddlers.
As we know, it is very important that toddlers get enough fats for a healthy overall development and growth. Avocado is an excellent source of good mono-unsaturated fats that help to keep cholesterol level stable and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Avocado is also a very nutrient-dense fruit that will provide your toddler with substantial amount of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients. You should peel an avocado after cut it in quarter (seed removed) in order to get the most of its outer dark green flesh that is full of carotenoid antioxidants.
Greek yoghurt is yoghurt that has been strained to remove lactose and whey and leave us with a much creamier and thicker yoghurt texture. Greek yoghurt is not only loaded with calcium, potassium, vitamin B-6 and B-12 and protein but does it also contain a large amount of probiotic that is known to help fight intestinal disease and aid digestion. The stripped off lactose in Greek yoghurt makes it possible to be consumed by lactose-intolerant toddlers.
Try giving your toddler plain Greek yoghurt with some of his favorite fresh fruits and a squeeze of maple syrup or honey instead of giving him flavored yoghurt. Or you can make some delicious fruit yoghurt pops to replace those full-of-unspellable-ingredients ice creams 😉 .
These 5 great foods to feed toddlers are staple ingredients in my house. I try to incorporate them in our meals as much as I should. What are your favorite ways to use these ingredients? Let me know in the comment section below :).