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Keeping your toddler adequately hydrated

As many parents transition their toddlers from breast milk or formula to solids, I’m often asked how much water or other liquids toddlers should be consuming. Water is an essential nutrient for human health serving as a mode of transport in the body, it’s vital for major metabolic reactions, acts as a solvent and is required overall to keep our body in homeostasis.

During the transition from breast / formula to solids and then from 1 year onward a further transition away from formula or breast to solids and water as the primary dietary sources we need to ensure our children are obtaining adequate hydration through water and food.

Currently there is no exact science on water intake for infants and toddlers. Fluid intake depends on factors such as age, gender, activity levels, and climate. However, current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend approximately 1 litre or 4 cups of fluid for infants between the ages of 1-3 years old or 100ml/kg body weight.

I need to draw attention here on the ‘fluid’ you’re giving your toddler. With more and more discretionary drinks available and “seemingly” healthy – fruit juice boxes / flavoured milks etc – the best options for fluid for your toddlers and children are water and pure (unflavoured / unsweetened) milk. It really is that simple.

What we give our children when they’re young is setting their health up for life. We, as parents, need to own that responsibility and take it seriously.

How you distribute this to meet the guidelines above is up to you however, I’d recommend offering some milk or water with meals and snacks rather than letting your toddler walk about with their cup / bottle and sip on water continuously through the day which may displace their appetite for meals.

If you are concerned about your child’s fluid intake then don’t hesitate to speak to your GP, paediatrician or health care practitioner specialising in early childhood nutrition.

Some other simple considerations for improving fluid intake may be increasing your toddlers intake of more hydrating foods, including plenty of (you guessed it!) vegetables.

Keep this list of hydrating foods on the fridge for your reference:

  • cucumber – peel and sliced in thin long strips for your toddler
  • tomatoes – if cherry again ensure sliced to reduce choke hazard
  • zucchini – steamed easiest and most palatable – quite a neutral flavour so often favoured by kids
  • spinach – steamed or sauteed and chopped into food
  • milk
  • melons
  • yoghurt
  • soup – please watch out for high sodium content in some of the supermarket soups available to us, you can always dilute for your toddler with water or milk
  • broccoli
  • oranges – the whole orange with the pith not the juice which is essentially fruit sugars only
  • apples – peel and slice in thin long strips

+ On a personal¬† / practical note from a mum of (almost) three and as a health practitioner, I do find incorporating these ingredients such as spinach, zucchini, milk, yoghurt, apples, water and other nutrient dense foods (nut butter, chia seed, oats etc) into a small smoothie as one of Elke’s snacks for the day an incredibly convenient and effective way of improving her fluid and nutrient intake. We mostly use an open bamboo cup for water and then a covered cup with silicon straw (this one is from Urban Baby Shop) for her smoothies.

 

Jacqueline Alwill

Jacqueline is an Accredited Nutritional Medicine Practitioner specialising in family and early childhood nutrition and gut health. She writes for several media publications, hosts a regular nutrition segment on Channel 7 and in 2016 published her first book, "Seasons to Share" (Murdoch Books). Jacqueline is passionate about working with corporations and brands to support and educate their community and audience and is currently a media spokesperson and ambassador for Remedy Drinks, Eimele Australia, Woolworths, Kitchenaid and Nutrition Director at Bondi Bubs Wholefoods. She is mum to Jet and outside her working hours you'll find her with her family in the surf, on the beach, or out and about in nature.

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