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One to Three Years: Dietary Milestones

Find information on the dietary milestones for toddlers ages one to three.

One to Three Years: Dietary Milestones

You may think of him as such, but your child is no longer a baby in the strict sense of the word. He's a toddler now, and the name fits kids ages one through three. Talk about rough and tumble! Once standing becomes old hat, toddlers try their luck at walking, and have their share of spills. Making your way around the room with feet planted wide apart for support is never smooth sailing.

Before you know it, walking is a breeze for your daughter. After they are up and about, children are much more physically active than they were as infants. At this point in her life, your child seems to possess endless energy reserves, even though her appetite appears to have taken a nosedive from her days as a baby. What gives? Infants grow at a frantic pace during year one. In fact, there's no other time when children grow faster. But a child's growth slows considerably after her first birthday. Despite a toddler's frenetic pace, she actually requires fewer calories per pound.

She may not be packing on the pounds or getting taller before your eyes, but your toddler's brain development hasn't slowed one iota. It seems that healthy toddlers learn new ways to communicate every day. For sure, youngest toddlers use more garbled words, grunts, and body language to get their message across. But as her third birthday approaches, a youngster's vocabulary has usually developed by leaps and bounds. That's when she begins to string together words in short sentences and ask a lot of questions, allowing her personality to shine through. Despite their burgeoning vocabulary, one- and two-year-olds often lack the words to completely express their emotions, which may result in temper tantrums thrown out of frustration, including at mealtimes.

Loving, sociable beings one minute; screaming and out of control the next. That's the lot of many toddlers, who are studies in contradiction.

For instance, toddlers love routine. The daily rituals played out in your household and at day care send the signal that everything is OK in their world. Older toddlers take particular comfort in knowing what will happen next. Yet, one- and two-year-olds tend to rebel against highly structured activities. Why? Their short attention span and natural curiosity about their environment makes them easily distracted.

A toddler's unpredictability can be particularly exasperating for parents during mealtimes. When you're one or two years old, your appetite changes from day to day, making it hard for parents to gauge what and how much food to prepare and offer. Periodic growth spurts result in a greater demand for food over a very short time, since kids can add an inch to their frames in a matter of days. Likewise, teething (most often molars), colds, and ear infections can dampen your son's desire for food. During this stage, your child will also begin to want to feed himself as well as let you know what he would like to eat.

The addition of cow's milk to your child's diet is a dietary milestone. After he reaches a year, you may substitute cow's milk or fortified soy beverages for breast milk or formula. If you are nursing, you can continue for as long as you and your baby desire, but be aware that solid foods should dominate the diet by one year of age.

Make It Milk
The risk of food allergy is greatly reduced by age one. That's why it's safe to give your child full-fat cow's milk or fortified soy beverage instead of infant formula or breast milk. Here's how to make a safe and effective transition to milk or a soy beverage.

  • Replace a quarter of the formula or expressed breast milk with full-fat cow's milk or soy beverage and gradually increase the proportion over the course of a couple of weeks or so.
  • Provide about 16 to 24 ounces of milk or soy beverage a day to a one- or two-year-old to help ensure adequate protein and calcium intake.
  • Use only full-fat milk until age two. Full-fat milk provides the necessary fat and calories for your child's growth and cholesterol for his brain development. Children can begin drinking reduced-fat varieties such as 2% reduced-fat milk or 1% low-fat milk at age two, but it may not be necessary to serve lower fat milks. When milk, full-fat fortified soy beverages, and other dairy products are a major part of a child's diet, using reduced-fat versions can hamper growth by restricting fat, a concentrated calorie source.

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