Toddlers are usually happy to self-feed with their hands from around 12 months old and should soon after be able to use cups and basic utensils. Toddlers can also eat many of the same foods that you eat – some will love the idea of inclusion with the grown-ups whilst others will be more fussy. Toddlers are all different with different tastes!
Toddlers don’t yet have the large molars in the back of their jaw to chew up harder foods. As the large molars have not been developed, there is a risk of choking on hard, coarse or tough foods like nuts, popcorn, boiled lollies and large chunks of meat.
Avoid giving your toddler food when they’re playing or running around – toddlers should be seated while eating. Only give young toddlers food when they’re being supervised by yourself or an adult.
As you expand your toddler’s diet, you should also be on the lookout for allergic reactions, especially after you have introduced common allergens to their diet. If you notice an allergic reaction, seek medical help immediately.
What to feed your toddler
Toddlers can enjoy a variety of the same foods that you do, but their food might need to be cut into smaller pieces, shredded, minced or peeled. They might also prefer less spices in their food.
Consider including elements from each of the following groups in your toddler’s overall weekly diet:
- Fruit – apples, pears, sliced cherry tomatoes and grapes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, avocado.
- Vegetables – potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, capsicum.
- Grains – noodles, pasta, wholemeal bread, quinoa, brown rice, porridge.
- Protein – chicken, red kidney beans, tofu, tuna, minced meat, peanut butter, eggs, cheese, hummus, yoghurt.
Fussy toddlers and not eating
Sometimes your toddler will start to show clear preferences for some foods and a dislike for others. These preferences can often be temporary, but they might persist for many years to come.
You can try to prevent this by offering your child a wide variety of foods early in their life. This might not always be easy but, if possible, try to introduce a diversity of textures and tastes so that your child gets used to different foods.
If your toddler is refusing to eat food, don’t force them. Consider changing up how the food is served – rather than a designated plate of food, place bite-sized bits on a platter and set it on the coffee table. If they see you eating from it, they might join in and enjoy the ability to make a choice.
Encouraging a good relationship with food
Mealtimes should be fun times for toddlers, and you can help them form a good relationship with eating by creating a positive and supportive environment.
Toddlers use mealtime to learn about different tastes and textures, as well as learning about how to feed themselves and listen to their bodies telling them that they’re hungry or full. If your toddler is continually refusing food, there may be an underlying serious condition and you should consider seeing a doctor.