How to make a baby and toddler meal plan

Baby and toddler meal plan

by Samantha Ball |
Updated on

When you begin weaning your baby, it can be hard knowing where to start, but by creating a baby and toddler meal plan you can feel a little more organised when it comes to meal times.

Trying to decide what to eat everyday for yourself can be hard enough, never mind when you're factoring in meal plans for one year olds and toddlers. We spoke with The Baby & Chid Nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed who shared her advise on baby and toddler meal plans.

How do I know my baby is ready for food?

The first thing you need to consider when starting a baby meal plan, is knowing if they are ready for food.

Charlotte says that there are three main signs of readiness which are:

  1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.

  2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.

  3. The baby can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouth.

Charlotte adds: "all babies will show these signs at different stages, but it is generally between four and six months."

What should my toddler eat and what nutrients does a one-year-old need from foods?

It’s important your child has a well balanced diet and explores a variety of different foods that will support their nutrition and growth. Charlotte says, "by age one, most children should be able to get the nutrients that they need from eating a variety of different foods."

"This includes both macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, protein and fats, as well as micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamin C, iodine, calcium and many more."

Charlotte also adds that: "by eating a variety of foods from each of the food groups: starchy carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables and dairy/fortified alternatives, children should be able to meet all of their nutritional requirements."

The only nutrient that can't be obtained easily on a balanced diet is vitamin D, which is why it's recommended to have around a Vitamin D supplement for your baby or toddler.

It's important to try and offer different food groups to your child at different meal times:

Protein

Including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts/legumes (make sure these are in forms that are safe for their age)

Complex carbohydrates

These include whole grains, sweet potato and squash

Health fats

Including avocados, chia seed, flax seed, egg yolks, nuts and seeds

Fruit and vegetables

Fibre and iron rich foods are also an important part of your toddlers diet, but they’ll naturally get this from the foods listed above. By making sure your toddler eats a well balanced diet including the food categories above means they’re less likely to become picky eaters in the future.

Aim to serve a minimum of one to two of these food groups at meal times, and vary them throughout the week so that your toddler will be getting all the nutrition they need.

How many meals a day should a baby and toddler have?

Charlotte said: "When babies start weaning, around six months, I recommend starting on just one meal to begin with to gradually introduce solid foods into your routine."

"As your baby gets to grips with one meal, you can introduce a second and third," she adds, "remember that each baby will move through weaning different, but generally speaking most babies will be on three meals a day by around nine months old."

For toddlers, you might want to add a couple of snacks between meals, where they would normally have milk.

How much time should you allow between toddler meals?

Two to three hours is a good amount of time to leave between your toddlers meals and snacks and help them work up an appetite. Trying to put set meal and snack times in place can be a good routine to get into, as it can help your toddler know what to expect and when.

However, don’t be disheartened if you find your toddler’s appetite changing constantly, as when they are hungry it's something that is completely out of your control. Also, avoid letting your toddler graze on snacks throughout the day, as this will definitely ruin their appetite.

How do I know if my toddler is eating enough?

If your toddler seems full of energy, is meeting milestones and gaining healthy weight you can rest assured that they’re eating enough food. If your toddler has any medical issues or you are concerned, it's always best to check in with your paediatrician.

How can I support my toddler when eating?

Toddlers can be easily distracted, so there are a few things you can do to support them while they're eating and allow them explore their food.

Switch off screens

Avoid bringing iPads and phones to the table. Let your toddler focus solely on their food and not be distracted by their favourite show.

Let them decide how much they eat

It can be frustrating when you've made a meal and your toddler only has a mouthful of food. But by letting them decide how much they want to eat, it encourages them to eat more next time and helps them to understand their hunger and if they are full or not.

Sit with them at the table

It's not always easy to have sit down meals as a family, but where possible, sitting at the table with them can encourage them to eat. They mimic what you do and will feel more encouraged seeing others eating the same foods.

Aim to serve a variety of foods

By offering a mix of foods, your toddler has plenty of options and it can encourage a well balanced diet. It's important to offer something that will fill them, such as bread, pasta or potato, some fruit and vegetables and something they like.

Offer something they like with each meal

If someone put a plate full of foods you weren't familiar with in front of you, you would be hesitant to try it. By offering a safe food that you know your toddler likes with their meal, they will feel more inclined to try the rest of the foods on their plate.

Meet the Expert

Charlotte Stirling-Reed is “The Baby & Child Nutritionist” and is a Registered Nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. Charlotte is also an author and mum to little foodies Raffy and Adaline, and owner of consultancy, SR Nutrition. It’s her mission in her work to give parents confidence in feeding their children.

Samantha Ball is a Commercial Content Writer and freelanced for the Mother&Baby website for two years before joining the team full-time. She's a mum of two and loves browsing for the best products and cute outfits.

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