Nutrition and physical activity are important for a child’s health and well-being. A balanced family diet can generally cover a toddler’s particular nutritional needs.
However, recent surveys indicate that toddlers throughout Europe are often not receiving a sufficient amounts of nutrients, in particular with respect to vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and, in some countries, iodine. It is therefore important that parents keep the following guidelines to hand when planning their child’s diet:
Some children may benefit from taking specific supplements and/or fortified foods. Parents are encouraged to consult their child’s paediatrician, as each child’s needs vary.
Vegetarian and vegan diets for toddlers
A balanced vegetarian diet with milk, milk products and eggs (known as a ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet) is possible for toddlers, but parents need to pay particular attention to providing enough iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, as these may be limited in such a diet. A vegan diet (a purely plant-based diet with no animal-based foods such as milk or eggs) is inadequate for children and cannot meet nutritional needs without regular supplementation of nutrients, e.g. vitamin B12 and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (good sources are e.g. salmon, herring and mackerel). Therefore, the use of vegan diets in young children without using supplements is strongly discouraged.
More practical advice for parents of toddlers
Berthold Koletzko, Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. is Professor of Paediatrics at Ludwig-Maximilians-University and is head of Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine at Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, both in Munich, Germany.