There is so much information available on healthy eating for toddlers you could be forgiven for thinking that fluids were not as important as food in a toddler’s diet.
But you would be wrong; fluids play an essential role in keeping your child healthy. Here we look at what your toddler should be drinking and how much liquid she needs to stay healthy.
Although your toddler needs less milk than she did in her first year, milk is still an important part of her diet as it contains calcium for strong bones and teeth and fat and vitamins to help her grow.
A number of pure fruit juices, such as apple, orange and cranberry, contain healthy vitamins and minerals, which can be an advantage if you have a toddler who won't eat.
The disadvantage is that even the unsweetened ones contain a lot of natural sugar and acid, which can cause tooth decay.
If you are going to give your toddler juice, it's best to offer it in a cup at a mealtime and you need to make sure that it's 100 percent fruit juice, which is well diluted – the Department of Health suggests one part juice to between six and ten parts water. Limit your toddler’s intake of any juice to between 120 and 180ml (4-6 floz) once a day.
Home-made smoothies, made with fruit and yoghurt or milk are one way of getting your toddler to eat more fruit.
There is no need to add sugar as there is natural sugar in fruit already. Some shop bought smoothies have sugar added to them, so making your own is much healthier.
Try offering a small smoothie – 100-120mls (3-4fl oz) – after your child’s meal instead of a pudding as a treat.
Any drinks that contain high levels of refined sugar, such as fruit drinks which contain less than 100 percent fruit and have added sugar; squashes, fizzy drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and vitamin waters.
All these are known to be a cause of childhood obesity and tooth decay.
Other drinks to avoid include tea and coffee.
You should give your toddler six to eight 100-120ml (3-4fl.oz) drinks a day – one with every meal and snack.
In addition, your toddler should have access to water throughout the day, particularly if the weather is warm or she is being very active.
Remember that your toddler won't necessarily be aware that she's thirsty, so it's up to you to offer a drink rather than to wait for her to ask for one.
By the time your toddler is a year old she should be drinking from a cup or beaker. You can buy these with lids and spouts so that the liquid doesn’t spill everywhere – look for ones that are valve-free so that your toddler drinks with a sipping action rather than by sucking.
Sucking fluids from a cup or bottle for any length of time bathes the teeth in the liquid, which can cause tooth decay, whereas, sipped fluids means they are swallowed more quickly and have less contact with the teeth.