Family meals and working parents
The idea for this blog came following a visit to a family for bedtime help with their 20-month-old and nearly 3-year-old girls. Like most families, I help they are time poor with both parents working. Everything in their day has to be organised to within an inch of its’ life. They need systems. Meal planning is crucial. Toddlers can’t wait for you to rush to the shops for food items. Your food cupboards, fridge and freezer need to be well stocked with easy to prepare and cook items.
When I looked at their evening meal choices I could see a big problem. They were outsourcing to a meal delivery service e.g. Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon. Whilst these are great options for adults they aren’t taking into account the nutritional needs of growing toddlers and children. They are way too healthy and very low-fat. Children under 2-years-old need the opposite and a higher-fat diet including good fats. To bring these meals up to a child’s nutritional needs there are various ways you can do this e.g. adding cheese sauces, cheesy pasta, dips such as hummus, coating veggies and pasta in melted butter and parmesan. After 2-years-old start transitioning to a lower level of fat if your child is gaining weight and tracking well on their centile charts. If they are underweight, a picky eater and not sleeping well you may decide to continue with a higher fat diet until their eating and weight are on track.
It’s also a good idea to offer a healthy dessert or cheese and crackers after main. After all, no one has ever turned down a slice of chocolate cake have they? And it needn’t be an unhealthy dessert. And yoghurt by itself is a disaster for a good nights sleep. There are many nutritious desserts for kids that are also quick and easy to prepare. I’m going to give you these at the end of this blog.
Suggested daily servings of food
1 serve fruit – 1 serve = 1 apple or 1 banana or 2 small plums, kiwi fruit or 1 cup of fruit.
2½ serves of veggies – 1 serve = ½ medium potato (or sweet potato or corn); or ½ cup cooked veggies (broccoli, spinach, carrots, pumpkin); or 1 cup green leafy or raw salad veggies; or ½ cup cooked, dried or canned beans or lentils.
1½ serves of dairy – 1 serve = 1 cup (250 ml) milk (can be reduced fat for children over two years) or calcium-fortified soy milk; or 2 slices cheese; or ¾ cup (200 gm) yoghurt; or ½ cup ricotta cheese.
4 serves of grains – 1 serve = 1 slice of bread; or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa or polenta; or ½ cup porridge; or ⅔ cup wheat cereal flakes; or ¼ cup muesli; or 1 crumpet or small English muffin.
1 serve of lean meats, nut pastes and legumes – 1 serve = 65 gm cooked lean beef, lamb, veal or pork; or 80 gm cooked lean chicken or turkey; or 100 gm cooked fish fillet or 170 gm cooked tofu or 2 large eggs; or 1 cup cooked lentils, chickpeas or canned beans; or 1½ tablespoons nut pastes and spreads
Nutritional needs of a toddler
The nutritional needs of your toddler are different to when they were a 6-month-old baby. They need a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as fruit and vegetables to be healthy. A growing brain needs healthy fats to grow so don’t deprive your children of healthy fats in their diet. When children are eating a low-fat diet, they typically eat high sugar and carbohydrates, which can lead to blood sugar problems and decreased immunity.Try and keep meals and snacks sugar-free for good health. Iron and calcium are particularly important in this age group.
Foods high in tryptophan and low glycaemic index carbohydrates help your toddler get to sleep quicker, stay asleep for longer and sleep past the natural dip in melatonin at 5 am.