15 Months – Healthy Eating

What foods to provide

Your child will now be eating for the most part the same foods as the rest of the family. The key to what foods to provide is variety. At meals, especially lunch and dinner, try to serve a protein, grain, fruit and vegetable. It is fine if the foods are mixed together and not separated on the plate. For example, if you serve lasagna for dinner this would incorporate the protein (meat and/or cheese) and the grain (pasta). Make sure to add a salad and a piece of fruit to this meal.

Examples foods in the various categories used to make meals:

  • Protein: eggs, cheese, tofu, peanut butter, lentils/beans, chicken, beef, lamb, seafood…
  • Grain: bread, pasta, rice, crackers, potatoes…
  • Fruit: strawberries, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, pineapple…
  • Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, squash, corn, peas, green beans…

An example dinner using a food from each category would be scrambled eggs with salad, toast and cut up pear.

You and those caring for your child are your child’s role models on what to eat. If you are eating lots of ‘sometimes’ or ‘discretionary’ foods they will likely want to eat them as well.

How much food to provide

Trust your child’s appetite. Some days your child will eat more, some days less. This will reflect how much they are growing. Changes in appetite are totally normal. Never force your child to eat. Remember: Parents Provide — a healthy range of foods, Kids Decide — whether to eat and how much to eat. Try not to fuss about the amount of food your child eats at one meal. The more you fuss about food, the more your child will fuss and it will turn meal times into unpleasant experiences for everyone.

If you are worried your child is not eating enough food or is eating too much, monitor their growth closely with your Maternal Child Health Nurse. If you find that your child is not gaining enough weight or is gaining too much weight, we recommend that you consult with your child’s Maternal Child Health Nurse, General Practitioner or Dietitian.

How often to provide food

Three meals and 2 – 3 snacks, is ideal. Your child will determine if and how much they eat at each of these times. Try to limit any ‘grazing’ between the meal and snack times. If you feel your child is truly hungry, offer a small amount of fruits or vegetables. If you provide food between the meals you might find that your child will not be hungry enough to try new foods and will only eat their favourite foods.

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Eat Together, Play Together

What to drink

From 1 year on, full cream milk will begin to replace breast and/or formula milk. Cow’s milk should be limited to around 500 ml a day. Water should be the only drink offered other than milk. Your child should be practicing, and may have already mastered, drinking from a cup. Try to move away from using bottles.

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Tap into Water

Prevent cavities

Your toddler may have several teeth by now. Teeth will continue to emerge until they have twenty. Although baby teeth are temporary, it is important to care for them to prevent cavities, to instil good oral hygiene habits and to promote overall good health.

You may have already started brushing your baby’s teeth or wiping them with a soft cloth. If not, try to do this twice a day. You can skip the toothpaste for now if your toddler does not like the taste as the brushing is more important. Your toddler might even enjoy brushing their own teeth. Let them watch you brush your teeth and then give them their own easy to hold, soft toddler toothbrush.

For more information about your child’s dental health and on healthy brushing habits, visit the Dental Health Services Victoria website.

Bottle mouth

Many parents learn the hard way that allowing your child to go to bed with a bottle can lead to a mouthful of cavities. Dentists call this ‘bottle mouth’. When a baby falls asleep after having milk, formula or juice the teeth and gums bathe in sugar for hours, promoting bacteria and decay. Nursing a baby to sleep, however, does not have the same effect. Breast milk is less likely to foster bacteria growth.

Limit your child’s salt (or sodium) intake

Salt (or sodium) is needed by everyone but in extremely small quantities. There are many negative health risks associated with a high salt intake including high blood pressure. The intake of salt in babies’ diets has risen over the years especially through the intake of breads, cereals, processed meats, cheese, yeast extracts and baked beans, which all contain a lot of added salt. We recommend not adding any salt to your child’s food. Given that we are not born with a preference for salt, it is best to keep exposure to a minimum for the sake of long-term health.

Just add fruit and vegetable tip:

Aim to serve a fruit and vegetable at every meal and snack. Getting your child in this habit will set them up for life-long health; have chopped up vegetables and a salad ready to go in the refrigerator. Ready chopped and washed vegetables may entice you to eat more of them and more often. Also, have a bowl of fruit with cutting boards close. Cutting fruit and vegetables in front of your child make for great teaching moments e.g. what colour is this apple?

Budget tip:

Take a shopping list with you to the supermarket. Aim to spend the most on the everyday foods such as fruit and vegetables, cereals and breads, legumes; a moderate amount on meats and dairy foods; and the very least on sometimes foods such as takeaway foods, alcohol, soft drinks, biscuits, cakes and chips.

Shop around the outer edges of the supermarket. The outer edges are where the fresh foods are stored. These are also the foods which we should be eating the most, so these are the foods that should take up most of our shopping trolley.

Keep a seasonal chart of fruits and vegetables.

Buying fruits and vegetables in season will provide more flavour and will cost much less.

> Useful resources for Session Five: 15 Months