If you’ve gotten your toddler to eat fruit, go ahead and congratulate yourself. Fruit is an ideal source of many important nutrients, including fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. However, your little one can’t live on fruit alone. Too much, even of a good thing, isn’t healthy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate website recommends a diet that contains a variety of foods from each food group, which means your toddler should eat fruit in combination with other foods for the most health benefits.
How Much Is Needed?
Toddlers should be eating about 1 cup of fruit per day. This is enough to contribute to your child’s nutrient needs and still leave room for foods from the other food groups. A cup of sliced bananas, grape halves or orange segments counts as a full day’s fruit needs for your toddler. One small apple, a large peach or a medium pear also count as a cup as does one cup of 100-percent fruit juice. Give your toddler a bit of fruit at meals and snacks so she can satisfy her fruit cravings throughout the day without overdoing it.
Problems With Too Much Fruit
It might seem like if fruit is so good for your toddler’s health, that more is better. This isn’t the case, however. Fruit contains fiber, which aids in normal digestion, but it’s also very filling. If your toddler loads up on fruit, his tummy is so full that it leaves little to no room for other healthy foods. If his appetite is satisfied for hours because he ate a huge plate of fruit, he might not be hungry for nutritious food at mealtime. Fruit, despite its health benefits, contains calories. Too many calories equate to weight gain, which sets your little one up for health problems down the road. Fruit also lacks healthy fats, which are vital for normal growth and development, notes Brighton University pediatric dietitian Sarah Almond in a 2008 article in the London Daily Mail Online.
A well-balanced diet is important for toddlers because it ensures an adequate intake of many nutrients that aid in overall good health. Fruit is just a part of the equation. Vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy foods are also vital. Together, these foods fill your toddler’s belly with protein, iron, vitamins, calcium and carbohydrates, which fuels her body, aids in development, boosts immunity and keeps her going as they learn, play and grow.
If your toddler demands fruit every time she sits down at the table, you don’t have to crush her hopes. Simply spread her daily fruit intake out throughout the day so she gets some whenever she wants it. For example, serve one-quarter of an orange at breakfast, five halved grapes at lunch, two strawberries at dinner and a couple or apple or pear slices at snack time. This way, she gets enough for good health, without getting so much that it might jeopardize her health.