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Tips for Optimal Toddler Nutrition

Is your child interested in the food the rest of your family is eating? Find out why nutrition matters for toddlers and why, when it comes to diet, children aren't just small versions of adults.


Your child's diet can have a positive influence on his or her development. Most parents have heard this at least once before. But recent research is only just beginning to show just how important nutrition is for future health. The international scientific community has identified the first 1,000 days as being a particularly important phase during which nutrition has a long-term effect on the future development of children. This means that feeding your child a variety of nutritious foods which are appropriate for his or her age can help prevent illness — including into adulthood.

Here in Germany, it is relatively easy to provide your child with enough variety. After all, Germany has the best conditions for optimal child nutrition. Yet studies show that toddlers are often lacking in certain nutrients. The average toddler in Germany gets less than the recommended daily amounts of iodine and vitamin D through food. On average, only 51 percent of the daily recommended amount of iodine and 6 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D are covered by the foods toddlers are eating. The reason for this is often a lack of variety on the child's menu.

A balanced diet provides children with enough of all the nutrients they need

Nutritionists specialising in children recommend feeding toddlers a balanced, age-appropriate diet in order to support healthy development during the first few years of life. But what does this mean in practice? It sounds easy to demand that toddlers get home-cooked meals consisting of high-quality, natural foods. The reality, however, is that toddlers in Germany often eat too few vegetables and foods rich in carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, potatoes and whole wheat bread. On the other hand, foods with "empty calories" (e.g. sweets, white bread, baked goods) and foods with high amounts of protein and salt (e.g. meat, sausage and cheese) are eaten too much. This can cause toddlers to not get the nutrients they need for healthy development.

Here's how to make sure your child gets what they need

From about month 10 onward, your child will begin to show more and more interest in the foods the rest of the family is eating – this is a good time to start transitioning them, step by step, to family foods. An essential part of an optimal diet — based on expert recommendations for toddlers — are regular meals in portion sizes that are appropriate for the age of your child, as well as a balanced variety of foods.

It's important to keep one thing in mind: toddlers aren't tiny adults. They are much more dependent than adults on foods which are appropriate for their age and which contain the nutrients they need.

Of course, adults are much bigger and heavier than toddlers, and they need more nutrients per day — at least when you consider the total amount eaten each day. However, if you look at the nutrient demand of a toddler relative to his or her bodyweight, then you see that they actually need two to five times as many nutrients as adults do. Moreover, a toddler's stomach can be up to five times smaller than that of an adult — that's about the size of a mandarin. This means that toddlers need to obtain all the essential nutrients they need from much smaller portions of food and in much more concentrated forms. This serves to emphasize just how important high-quality food is: quality matters simply because it's not possible to meet a toddler's demand for nutrients in terms of quantity.

Iodine and Vitamin D

Did you know that in Germany, on average only 51 percent of the daily recommended amount of iodine and 6 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D are provided by the food toddlers are eating? Iodine, a trace element, is necessary for the development of the thyroid hormone, which is important for the growth and development of the brain.

A balanced toddler diet? Variety is what counts

Of course, you can't keep track of all the nutrients your child is getting every day. However, it could be helpful to know which nutrients are contains in which foods. Doing this will make it clear just how important it is to provide a good mix of foods on your child's menu. This will also allow you to keep track of whether your child has been getting everything he or she needs. The following rule applies: a balanced and varied diet of fresh foods normally provides all the nutrients a child needs. In numbers, this comes to about 120 grams of fruit plus 120 grams of vegetables. Milk continues to be important during this period. The recommended daily milk intake toddlers is between 300 and 330 milliliters. Special children's milk, which is formulated to meet the special needs of children in growth phases, can be used to supplement a balanced and healthy diet, this setting the foundation for a healthy future. The German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ) has developed a recommended formula for milk drinks for toddlers which is tailored to children who are at least one year old. Aptamil Children's Milk is the first children's milk product for children one year and older that has been developed in accordance with DGKJ's recommendations. A high-quality milk product that supports you in your efforts to provide your child with everything he or she needs.

  • Early childhood nutrition has considerable influence on childhood development.
  • Healthy building blocks: eating right during pregnancy, breastfeeding exclusively during the first 4 to 6 months, healthy toddler nutrition.
  • Independent nutrition studies have provided evidence in support of the idea that on average, in Germany, the daily recommended amounts of iodine and vitamin D are not being met by the foods toddlers are eating.
  • Toddlers are more dependent than adults on foods which are appropriate for their age and which contain the nutrients they need.
  • Should a healthy and balanced diet not be possible on account of the day to day activities of the parents or the preferences of the child, children's milk can be advisable. This, however, is no replacement for eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Parents should make sure that the children's milk they use contains the right amounts of vitamins and trace elements and that it follows the recommendations of the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
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