April 13, 2011
PROMOTING HEALTHY EATING HABITS WITH YOUR TODDLER
Hunger strikes, food battles and limited variety are common parental complaints in this age group. These can be due to a combination of factors, including transitioning away from breast milk/formula, the introduction of foods with a variety of flavors and textures and/or normal developmental behaviors such as testing limits and asserting independence.
Structure is oftentimes a very helpful tool in modifying many toddler behaviors including eating habits. It is oftentimes helpful to provide set meals and snacks with a variety of foods, but it is up to your child to determine what and how much he will eat. And remember, children’s tastes change quickly so if your child does not like a food one day, try it again a few weeks later. Try never to force feed or follow your child around trying to get him to take a few more bites. Many children react to this pressure by eating less or refusing to eat altogether.
- Offer 4-5 meals per day. One good meal is a reasonable expectation especially for a child who loses interest and only eats a few bites. In this case, cover the meal and reoffer it later in the day when the child is hungry.
- Maximize the meal your child likes the best. If your child eats best at breakfast time then make that the largest meal with the biggest variety.
- Offer an appropriate serving size for this age group. Below are a few examples of one serving:
- Dairy: cup (4 oz) of milk or yogurt, oz of cheese
- Proteins: 2 tablespoons of cooked meat, fish, or poultry, -1 egg, cup cooked beans, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- Grains: cup of cooked cereal like oatmeal, cup of rice or pasta, slice of bread or tortilla
- Fruits and vegetables: – cup of cooked or fresh fruits and vegetables (for example about banana)
- Sweets: A small amount is all a child needs! A toddler does not need a whole cookie but will enjoy a or cookie.
- Meals should be offered at a designated eating area like the kitchen table rather than all over the house and please remember that mealtime is a good family time and not time to watch TV.
- Try to include a small portion of at least one favorite food item on your child’s plate.
- Don’t make dessert a reward for eating. Put a small serving on your child’s plate with his other foods and let him determine when he will eat it.
- Offer drinks after the meal has been eaten.
- Offer water for thirst between meals or, if trying to boost calories, offer whole milk.
- Limit juice to 4-6 ounces per day and orange juice is best considering its benefits of potassium and vitamin C. If fortified, orange juice also offers calcium and vitamin D.
- Avoid filling up on milk or supplements by limiting these to 16-24 ounces per day.
- The best way to assess your child’s growth is by reviewing their current height and weight and the trend of these measurements on the growth chart. This is reviewed at each well child visit and at your request during a sick visit.
- And remember, a great way to get your children excited about new foods particularly fruit and vegetables is to plant a garden. It is a fun family activity and freshly picked produce always tastes better!
Take a look at the following resources for more helpful tips: