Have you ever wondered if your toddler is eating enough? Well, you're not alone! This is a helpful guide will give you peace of mind in knowing what small amounts are actually required.
When it comes to toddlers, I don't have any...but don't let that discount me altogether. Over the past 10 years as a dietitian, I have talked with over 20,000 families about their child's nutrition. There are a few themes that so many families have in common.
Toddlers eat everything one day, and nothing the next.
And that is ok! Toddlers are usually pretty good about regulating their own nutrient needs. That being said, there are some things we can do as adults to help guide them in the right direction.
What do I do to Make Meal Times Better?
- Remove all distractions. Yep, no phones, games, noise makers, or bribing. I know- easier said than done, but the goal here is focused meal times. Instead of games or talking only about food, try some fun utensils, plates, or cups that are age appropriate and let them play with their food.
- Set a timer. Start with 3 minutes and add 1 minute per age. So, a 4 year old would sit for 7 minutes.
- Use small portions. Think of your toddler’s two fists. That’s about the size of their stomach. Seeing a huge amount of food on the plate is overwhelming to some kids. Start small and add more food if needed.
- Offer a safe food. Alsways offer 1 thing you know your child will like. Then, add one or two new foods. Preferably what the family is eating. We want to stay away from “special” meals. Once your toddler eats the food he ir she likes, she can’t have seconds of her favorite food. If he or she is still hungry, he can try the new foods. Otherwise, they must wait until the next time you offer food.
- You are not a short order cook. It seems harmless, but making special meals because you “know they won’t like” something is not helpful. It sets the parent up for extra work making doffeeent meals for each family member and it makes the child know they never have to try anything new. They become pickier because they always get what they like. Another thing to keep in mind is that they really don’t know what they like, especially when they are young. (I mean, most of the time, neither do we as adults!). It changes from day to day and we get new tastebuds often. Toddlers get new tastebuds daily and it takes new tastebuds 7-10 time of trying something before they even know if they’ll like it.
I know- all of this is easier said than done, but with consistency, these strategies work over time. If it doesn’t work, keep going. In most cases, there will be some progress over time. If you have specific questions or concerns be sure to talk with your own health care team for advice. This is just an educational guide.
Another thing that might give you of mind is knowing what amount a toddler should actually be eating. hint: it’s pretty small. Seeing how small may make it easier to let them take a few bites and ”full”. Download a free guide below!