Nutrition in the Second Year

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Healthy eating is important in the second year to: (a) provide the energy and nutrients needed to grow and develop; (b) develop a sense of taste and an acceptance and enjoyment of different foods; and (c) instill attitudes and practices which may form the basis for lifelong health-promoting eating patterns.


29. Small, frequent, nutritious and energy-dense feedings of a variety of foods from the different food groups are important to meet the nutrient and energy needs during the second year.

The development of healthy eating skills is a shared responsibility: parents and caregivers provide a selection of nutritious, age-appropriate foods, and decide when and where food is eaten; toddlers decide how much they want to eat and, at times, even whether they eat (Satter, 1987). To encourage healthy eating skills, parents and caregivers have an obligation to recognize and respond appropriately to their toddler's individual verbal and non-verbal hunger cues (e.g. restlessness or irritability) and to satiety cues such as turning the head away, refusing to eat, falling asleep or playing (Satter, 1990). Infants can be encouraged to feed themselves at the beginning of a meal when they are hungry, but may need help if they tire later in the meal. Pressuring infants to eat by using excessive verbal encouragement (e.g. "empty your bottle [or cup]" or "clean your plate") may lead to negative attitudes about eating, poor eating habits or excessive feeding that may foster excess weight gain (Campbell, 1994; Birch, 1992).

  • i) Small, frequent feedings. Small and frequent, nutritious, energy-dense feedings are important for meeting the nutrient and energy requirements of infants during the second year. The term "feedings" is used, rather than "meals and snacks," because it better reflects toddlers' need for food when they are hungry or willing to eat rather than at conventional meal and snack times (Heird, 1994). Older infants need four to six small feedings a day in addition to their milk source (Hendricks and Badruddin, 1992). Their appetites vary, not only according to growth and activity, but also according to factors like fatigue, frustration, minor illnesses and social context. Therefore, older infants should be given small servings, along with the opportunity to ask for more if they are still hungry.
  • ii) Variety. Ingestion of a variety of foods daily from the food groups in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating (Health and Welfare Canada, 1992) is recommended to prevent nutrient deficiencies (Hendricks and Badruddin, 1992). Seventy years ago, Davis (1928) and, more recently, Birch and co-workers (1991) demonstrated that most young children, if provided access to a varied diet of foods from each of the food groups, will consume adequate amounts of nutrients and energy. However, if they do not have access to foods from all food groups on a regular basis, self-selection of a nutritionally adequate diet is not possible (Heird, 1994). No single food, even if it is perceived as nutritious and healthful, should be consumed in excess (Smith and Lifshitz, 1994). As with all foods, moderation in fluid intake is recommended.

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