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To tackle this challenging topic, it's best to start with the basics. Below are a set of guidelines for nutrients critical to toddlers, a list of the foods that provide them, and -- getting to the heart of the matter -- ideas for how to get them to eat that food.
Daily requirements for a one-to-three-year-old:
- Protein: A minimum of 16 grams a day. 16 ounces of milk plus one ounce of meat is ample protein for a toddler.
- Fat: At least 30 percent of a toddler's calories should come from fat. Too little can result in "failure to thrive," where children do not get enough food to supply their energy and growth needs.
- Calories: 40 calories/day/inch of height = 1000 to 1300 calories/day. Calorie distribution is apt to look like this:
- 16 g protein = 64 calories
- 44 g fat = 396 calories
- 210 g carbohydrate = 840 calories
- Sodium: 325-1000 mg.
- Vitamin C: 40 mg.
- Vitamin A: 400 ug. RE
- Calcium: 800 mg. Even if a child drinks the recommended two cups of milk a day, he still needs 200 more milligrams of calcium. Offer yogurt, cheese, tofu, and leafy greens.
- Iron: 10 mg.
- Zinc: 10 mg. A mild zinc deficiency in toddlers is more common than realized. Symptoms are poor appetite, sub-optimal growth and reduced sense of taste and smell. The best sources of zinc are meat, eggs and seafood.
- Folate: 50 ug.
The last four are the ones most often deficient in toddlers.