Doctor's insight: Debunking toddler nutrition myths

(BPT) - The transition from breast milk or formula to food can be a stressful one for parents of toddlers. Keeping track of the newest information about adequate nutrition is difficult enough, not to mention you're now dealing with toddler food preferences that can seemingly alter overnight.

"Guidelines around nutrition are frequently changing and parents of young children often struggle with knowing what to feed their little ones and how to do it best," says Dr. Christina Valentine, neonatologist focused on maternal and infant diet and North America Medical Director, RB Nutrition. "This can lead to a lot of misconceptions that confuse well-meaning parents."

Toddlers' bodies and brains are growing rapidly, so it's important they have good nutrition to help support this growth. Valentine shares her expert insight about some of the most common food and nutrition myths, along with ways to help ensure your toddler is getting the necessary nutrients.

Myth: Toddlers get enough vitamin D from the sun.

Fact: Vitamin D is important for healthy bone growth in toddlers, yet many kids may be experiencing decreased exposure to sunlight due to changing seasons, differing routines, quarantine and more. This decreased exposure paired with limited dietary sources of vitamin D can mean some children may need additional supplementation, according to Pediatrics journal. In fact, the Journal of Nutrition reported that 76% of U.S. toddlers, aged 12 to 24 months, have an inadequate intake of vitamin D.

What to do: If your child is no longer drinking formula, incorporate vitamin D-rich foods and drinks like fortified milk and yogurt, toddler nutritional drinks, eggs, canned tuna, salmon and a vitamin D fortified cereal into their diet.

Myth: My child will eventually grow out of being a picky eater.

Fact: As kids grow up, they may outgrow resistance with certain foods, however, some habits may stick around if not addressed.

What to do: Try offering a variety of healthy options during snack time. Serve meals buffet style and allow your child to choose from a selection of nutritious foods, introducing new foods into the mix. Additionally, get them interested in what they’re eating by allowing them to help out in the kitchen. Finally, be a role model for healthy eating choices so they observe you eating well, too.

Myth: All toddlers can get all the nutrients they need — like iron — from their diet.

Fact: Because toddlers' tastes are changing, they might not be getting the necessary nutrients they need from their diet. Data show many toddlers face nutrient inadequacies and that approximately 1.5 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 may be at risk for iron deficiency, according to Nutrients journal.

What to do: Mix in nutritious foods with foods you know they like such as peanut butter, yogurt and blended fruit smoothies. Consider incorporating a toddler nutritional drink, like Enfagrow Toddler Nutrition Drink, to help fill in those nutrient gaps. Made with real milk, it has nutrients like DHA, vitamin D and iron. In fact, two servings has 70% of the daily value of iron they need for development, and it helps support growth with as much iron as in over two gallons of milk. Serve it as a drink on-the-go or use it in baking.

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