Parents are more aware than ever about the impact food has on health. Toddlebox nutrition and early feeding expert Sarah Keogh explains how fortified foods can help support your toddler’s unique needs.
Super-charge your toddler’s food!
Body growth and brain development are faster during the first three years of life than during any other. Giving your toddler a wide variety of foods as part of a healthy and balanced diet is key to making sure they are getting the right nutrition and vitamins. However, The National Pre-School Nutrition Survey discovered that 23% of one year olds, 10% of two year olds and 11% of three year olds are not getting enough iron in their diets. 70–84% of those aged between one and four do not get enough vitamin D.
Read our article Iron & Vitamin D at a Glance and Must-Have Nutrients for Toddlers to see why Vitamin D and iron are essential for healthy development.
From bread to cereals to milk, many foods have vitamins and minerals added to them as part of the production process. It’s one way to add a little extra nutrition if your toddler is not yet eating a wide variety of foods.
Fortified foods are foods that have added vitamins and minerals.
Is iron the hidden strength in your toddler’s diet?
Iron is essential. Toddlers should have some iron-rich foods at two meals everyday. Red meat, chicken legs (brown meat), eggs, beans, chickpeas, lentils, barley, spinach and kale are all good sources. But toddlers can be tricky eaters, which is why some foods have iron added to them.
It’s not always easy to get enough iron into a toddler through diet! Fortified breakfast cereals, fortified milks, and toddler-friendly growing up milk all have added iron.
The National Pre-School Survey showed that a lot of the iron in toddler diets comes from fortified foods. Fortified breakfast cereals can be an important source of iron. As your toddler gets older they will be able to manage more iron-rich foods, which will help them get all the iron they need from their diet.
Toddlebox nutritionist’s top tip: try making kale crisps – they’re (surprisingly!) good & toddlers love ‘em!
Essential Vitamin D
Vitamin D is unique because it can come from food as well as from sun on bare skin. But because of the risk of skin cancer, direct exposure to sunlight is not recommended (and sunscreen prevents the Vitamin D from getting into the body). That’s why it’s vital to be sure your toddler is getting enough Vitamin D from their diet. Vitamin D is present in some foods, but in quite small amounts. Oil-rich fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are a good source of Vitamin D, but your toddler would have to eat them three to four times a week to get enough.
Some breakfast cereals, breads, some milks, and toddler-friendly growing up milk have added Vitamin D!
The Department of Health recommends a Vitamin D supplement until age one. After that, you can continue with a supplement or look for foods that have added Vitamin D instead.
Remember, fortified foods do not replace a good, balanced diet. It is important to help your toddler develop a taste for all the foods they need for health. And yes, we know that can be harder than it sounds!
Check out our Guide to Toddler-Friendly Portions and Guide to Healthy Eating Habits for help in making healthy, balanced food choices.