• The release of energy from foods
• The use of energy by muscles and other organs
• Protection of cells and tissues from the oxidative effects of free radicals (see ‘Antioxidants’)
You’ll find a healthy balanced diet contains everything your little one needs. One way to do this is to give them a daily diet made up of all the colours of the rainbow – yellow for starchy foods, brown for meats and/or legumes (beans and lentils) and reds, greens, yellows, purples and oranges for vegetables and fruit.
If your baby is exclusively or even partially breast-fed, Health Canada recommends that they should have a daily Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms. Please ask your health professional or pharmacist for advice.
Vitamin A helps build strong bones and teeth, supports night vision and aids healthy skin.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) releases energy from carbohydrate and aids normal growth.
Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin) and B6 helps energy, metabolism and the formation of tissue.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against the damage of free radicals, it also plays a part in building teeth, bones, cartilage and gums.
Vitamin D improves calcium and phosphorus absorption and helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to protect the fat in body tissues from oxidation.
Free radicals are unstable by-products of the chemical reactions in our body. They are a bit like little black spots which ping around the body causing damage to the surface of cells, proteins and DNA. Antioxidants are vitamins (Vitamin A, C, E) sometimes known as ACE and are the body’s superheroes – fighting the black dots.
Minerals and why your baby needs them
Minerals are split into two types, ones that we need in tiny amounts (trace elements) and ones that we need more of. Examples of trace elements are iron, zinc and selenium. The ones we need more of include calcium, phosphorus and sodium. Minerals have lots of different functions in the body.
Calcium & Phosphorous help build and maintain healthy bones and teeth
Iron helps build red blood cells (see Why your baby needs iron in the nutrition section of Up to 6 months)
Zinc is a factor in energy metabolism and tissue formation
Selenium helps protect against oxidative stress
Magnesium aids in energy metabolism, tissue formation and bone development
Sodium occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods. About 75% of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods such as bread, cookies, butter, margarine, cheese and snack foods.
The mineral has important functions within the body:
• Maintains fluid balance and, as a result, helps to maintain blood pressure
• Aids nerve and muscle function
• Helps keep the pH of the blood within the normal limits
• Plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism
Breast milk and sodium
Breast milk contains approximately 138 mg of sodium per litre. Infant formula regulations stipulate the range of sodium permitted. Formulas for newborns have sodium content similar to breast milk.
Infants receive enough sodium from breast milk and infant formula without the addition of salt. With the introduction of solids, the intake of sodium can rise considerably. The increase tends to be lower for those fed commercial infant foods where the sodium content is regulated.
Salt and your baby's diet
Salt should never be added to an infant's diets. Infants have a limited ability to excrete excessive sodium which can result in hypernatremia or dehydration.
Healthy snacks include whole wheat crackers or whole grain cereal, cheese, yogurt, fruit such as sliced apple, banana or pieces of seedless orange, baby biscuits and cereal bars.
Vegetables such as grated raw carrots or soft pieces of cooked frozen vegetables like peas or diced carrots are fine provided your child is sitting down and is old enough to handle these foods while supervised without choking.
Your child should be given whole milk or fruit juice - not fruit-flavoured drinks or soft drinks.
Nutritious Snacking Made Easy
Heinz provides a large assortment of nutritious snacks for toddlers. All snacks were created with nutrition in mind to give parents peace of mind. In addition, all snacks were specially designed for little hands and mouths to encourage self-feeding.
Tastes change over time, so keep offering all the foods the family eats. Ask your health care practitioner for advice if anything concerns you about your toddler’s eating habits.
Nurturing a healthy interest
The older they get, the more you can teach your little one about food. From 2 years old they can help you with shopping, preparing and cooking meals. Food can even be part of imaginative play outside their mealtimes. Growing herbs and other window box or garden vegetables will help them learn more too.
Don’t forget, they’re not grown-ups yet
Your little one’s probably eating lots of the same foods as the rest of the family now, but there are still some important differences. For their size, toddlers need more nutrients than adults. No single food can provide everything a toddler needs to grow, develop and stay healthy. That’s why it’s important to offer as much variety as you can.
Breast milk still has benefits after 12 months, so you don’t have to stop if you and your toddler want to carry on. If you are continuing breastfeeding at this stage, they will continue to need baby vitamin drops for Vitamin D. Ask your health care practitioner to find out more.
Cow’s milk is not recommended as baby's main milk drink until 12 months, but cow's milk based foods can be given to your baby after six months as part of solid foods, such as baby cereal with dry skim milk powder. Until 12 months, Cow’s milk should only be used as an ingredient as it is low in Iron and does not contain the essential Vitamin A, C and E and fatty acids necessary for your baby's growth. Find out more here >>
Skim Milk should not be given to children under 2 years of age.
Getting them used to using cups
From 12 months you can give whole cow’s milk as their main milk drink. Still using a feeding bottle? Think about introducing cups. Ideally, your child will be using one instead of a bottle before their first birthday. Children tend to drink far less from a cup than a bottle. This helps them not to drink too much, which can spoil their appetite.
Keeping your little one topped up
Toddlers need lots to drink, especially on hot days or when they are active. If they’re dehydrated your little one will be more likely to get constipated. Offer them water at the end of meals or between meals to avoid spoiling their appetites for other foods.