One of the most common concerns of parents of toddlers and preschoolers relates to fussy or picky eating and nutrition. This fact sheet is designed to help allay some of those fears and point parents in the right direction.
Generally, if your child is growing at a normal rate, is active, healthy and alert then they are likely to be eating well. Growth and development are great guides.
We have all been bombarded with guides on eating the minimum number of servings from each food group. However, did you know that one serve isn’t necessarily equivalent to one piece of fruit or vegie? If you’ve ever looked into how many servings you or your child needs, you will appreciate that it isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. Each food represents a different serving amount depending on its contents. You either need a very good memory or a fridge large enough to display lots of lists!
Still, there is no denying that servings are a handy guide, which is why we have put together a quick checklist so you can assess your child’s diet without too much fuss. Keep in mind that this is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified professional; it is just a guide.
The first step is to record everything your little one eats AND drinks and when it is eaten. Be descriptive e.g. wholemeal bread, full-fat cow’s milk and include the quantities they eat. Try to select a reasonably average day. One day is easiest but the more days you do the more accurate the result.
We have designed two handy blank diet diary sheets for you to use. One is for toddlers 12 months to 2 years, the other for children 3 to 8 years.
Now that you have your raw data, review the servings charts attached. We recommend you add another food group (especially for children) called “extra foods”. These are the less desirable foods, the ones that can taste better than Mum’s cooking at times, such as sausages, pies, chips, takeaways, donuts, sweets etc. The desired serving should be 0-1 per day. Now, refer to your list of foods and tick the food group it belongs to. Some may fit into two or more groups; for example, cheese is dairy, calcium and protein.
Once you have filled in all the information for the foods consumed in a day, simply add up the ticks in the columns. Write down the number of servings your child should have consumed (refer to the servings charts) and subtract one from the other to see whether there is a shortfall or excess. Quite easy, really. In some cases, shortfalls may not be a bad thing – for example in the case of “extra foods”; likewise excesses may be both good and bad.
Once you’ve identified a problem area, review the relevant foods or the food groups that are deficient. Then you can take action by including more of the foods suggested on the charts in your child’s diet.
Generally, when food is presented on a plate, each of the food groups should be represented in roughly the following proportions: