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Ask the experts: Peanut butter sandwiches

Q: "My partner has been feeding peanut butter sandwiches, and jam sandwiches, to our 16-month-old son and says that it'll be fine twice a week, or on the odd occasion. I believe that while they traditionally are part of a Kiwi kid's lunchbox, they aren't healthy enough to be lunch (ok for breakfast or morning/afternoon tea) and I think he should have something else instead. Could you resolve this for us?"

Cecile

A: Nutritionist Cindy Williams to responds:

"You are both partly right. A healthy lunch for a toddler contains some protein (for building and repairing), some carbohydrate (for energy to toddle around) and some fruit or vegetables.

Peanut butter is a good protein food. A peanut butter sandwich with some mandarin segments or kiwifruit slices to follow is an ideal lunch. The vitamin C in the fruit increases iron absorption from the peanut butter. Choose peanut butter with no added salt or sugar.
Jam sandwiches are more a snack food. I would use them occasionally, as you suggest, as an alternative to biscuits or cake for morning or afternoon tea. 

The most important thing about feeding toddlers is the habits you are teaching them. Whatever foods you encourage them to enjoy as a toddler are most likely the ones they will want to eat when they grow older. If they regularly eat jam sandwiches for lunch you may have a bit of trouble getting them to eat a more nutritious cheese or meat and salad sandwich when they get to school age. So now is a great time to offer your son a variety of different sandwich fillings."