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We all know how fussy toddlers are and how messy and challenging it can be to get them to eat well. However, we would say it is more challenging combatting major health issues, allergies and sensitivities further down the track due to poor diet choices and introducing negative eating habits in the first instance.

Here are Darling Health's “Top 10” factors in developing healthy nourishing diets in your toddler:

1. Use Full Fat Dairy Products

· Do not use reduced fat options

· Does not cause obesity in moderate amounts

· Essential vitamins A, D, E and K

· Dilute if you do not like taste

2. Reduce excessive wheat intake and rotate foods

· Wheat is a big, inflammatory protein

· Overused in the diet

· Use spelt, kamut, rye, oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth

· Many children are fed the same foods every day

· Even fussy eaters benefit from some variety in breads, crackers, milks etc

· Even different brands can have different nutritional profiles

3. Use fresh, ‘whole foods’

· Packaged foods are nutritionally deficient

· Even ‘organic’ ‘preservative free’ etc

· Time consuming but worth the effort

4. Toddlers should be eating and drinking – not sucking!

· Related to packaged foods

· Sucking food (eg Rafferty’s Garden) and bottles are not good for jaw development and speech

· Not good for encouraging palette

· ‘Lazy’ way of eating – great for producing fussy eaters!

5. How much milk after age one?

· After age one, milk is a drink and not a food

· Dairy is not an essential food but calcium, vitamin D and healthy fats are needed

· One cup of milk, small serve of cheese and yoghurt is enough

· Look at other calcium sources (tahini, almonds, canned salmon, sardines, broccoli etc)

6. Give protein at every meal

· Protein are the building blocks of cells

· Vital for energy, concentration, growth and mood

· Fish, meat, chicken, egg, legumes, nuts, seeds, natural yoghurt, chia seeds etc

7. Identify the real difference between ‘sometimes’ foods and ‘everyday’ foods

· If you have treats at home it is difficult to say no

· Sometimes foods are not given very often

8. Sugar is the enemy – if it tastes sweet, it is sweet!

· Sugar depresses the immune system and causes inflammation, cell damage and poor health

· Babies and young children do not need sugar in their diet

· Check ALL food labels for sugar and do not buy them for home

· Honey, fruit juice and most breakfast cereals are full of sugar

9. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats

· Most children are fat deficient

· Use good fats liberally in diet (avocado, eggs, nuts, seeds, tahini, coconut oil, cold olive oil, oily fish etc)

· Minimise your use of fried foods and heating oils (grill, bake, steam instead)

10. Desensitise while you wait

· Keep exposing your child to foods they do not like (while hiding them in other foods!)

· Give a ‘challenge’ food each night and try to keep it on their plate

· Play, paint, draw and ‘play cook’ with foods they will not yet eat

· Be patient – don’t give up!

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