12 Months – Healthy Eating

Getting Healthy Eating Right from 12 Months

What foods to provide

Try to eat the same foods together as a family. It is especially important for you to be having similar fruit and vegetables as your child. Meals do not need to be elaborate. They can be very simple and basic but still healthy.

Food tips for the 12-month-old toddler:

  • try offering new foods with familiar foods
  • toddlers love yoghurt! Offer a small serve of unsweetened plain yoghurt and add tinned, fresh or pureed fruit
  • use the same foods you would serve at meals at snack times. For example, offer a small serve of leftover pasta, vegetables and chicken instead of a sweet biscuit
  • use whole grains — oatmeal, wheat breakfast cereal biscuits, seeded and wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta
  • use ‘obvious’ fruits and vegetables as well as ‘disguised or hidden’ (mashed or cooked) fruits and vegetables. Hiding vegetables in dishes ensures your child may eat them, but does not encourage acceptance or experiences of new tastes and textures.

What to drink

At around 12 months you can introduce full cream cow’s milk as a main drink and after 2 years of age, reduced fat milk. Juice, soft drinks and cordials are not recommended. In addition to milk, water is the best drink of choice.

Remember to Tap into Water

Growth slows

Your toddler’s growth will now be much slower than it was over their first year of life. Because of this, their appetite may start to decrease and may seem very erratic. There will be some days that your toddler is very hungry and other days that they will want to eat very little. There is no need to be concerned unless you find they do not eat for several meals in a row or if their growth isn’t progressing normally. If you are concerned about your child’s lack of appetite over a number of days, talk with your Maternal and Child Health Nurse or your General Practitioner.

Setting the stage for ‘meal time’

This is a great time to get your toddler familiar with ‘meal time’. The routine and rules established now will be what they know as normal and will help establish life-long healthy eating habits.

A few suggestions for ‘meal time’ rules and routines:

  • turn off the TV
  • sit down together (even if everyone is not hungry enough to eat)
  • do not allow toys at the table
  • aim for your child to sit at the table for 15-20 minutes.

Turn meal times into learning experiences: When meal times are a learning experience instead of a chore for their parents, kids will look forward to meals and be inquisitive about the food provided for them.

  • Let them use a spoon. They may not get much (or any) food into the mouth with the spoon but with practice they will soon figure it out. Try giving them a spoon with thick foods (such as yoghurt) that will stick to the spoon when dipped.
  • Try putting one or two dips such as avocado, pureed apples or hummus on their plate with finger foods. When your toddler gets to dip food they are experimenting and having fun at the table!
  • Watch out for when your toddler is experimenting with cause and effect. For example, what happens when I drop this banana or squish this potato? Try not to be mad or upset when they play with their food. If you think they are no longer hungry, or feel a reasonable time has elapsed, take the food away.
  • Say the names of different utensils you use, and talk about the shapes and colours of the foods.
  • Name the different fruits and vegetables as you prepare and serve them.

Try to find that balance of letting your toddler explore, learn and have fun with food while also respecting the meal time. You might consider having the extra messy meal just before a bath time.

Parent modelling

Toddlers are constantly learning, and one of their best teachers is you! Parents can be a great model for their toddler, especially when it comes to food and healthy eating. Conversely, parents can also demonstrate negative eating behaviours, which may increase a toddler’s desire for unhealthy foods.

Budget tip:

Planning ahead will make feeding your family nutritious foods on a budget easier.

Plan out the next few evening meals for your family or better still, the whole week. Keeping the meal plan somewhat broad, for example roasted ‘meat’, makes it easier to use the same meal plan every week. If your family likes more variety, make the rotating meal plan for more than one week. Try using the menu planner below to help you get started.



Just add fruit and vegetable tip

Frozen vegetables are great to have in the freezer especially when you are short of time or have run out of fresh vegetables. The nutritional value of the frozen vegetables is often the same as the fresh version. They are frozen right after being picked and washed. Frozen vegetables are also often good value for money (check the unit price per kg as discussed in the 9 month section). Tinned vegetables (for examples tomatoes, corn, beetroot and legumes) are also good to use as long as they are low in salt. Look out for varieties that say ‘no salt added’. Check labels to see if they indicate they are ‘salt reduced’, ‘no added salt’ or check if they ‘sodium per 100 g’ in the nutrition panel is less that 120 mg.