Twenty Tips For Feeding Toddlers

Feeding and eating are fundamental interactions between parents and children. Don't turn it into a power trip. During the toddler years (after age 1 to about 3), the child has slowed some of their growth (except for brain growth which continues to age 2). They don't have the same appetite at times that they had, until the next growth spurt, at around pre-school entry. So, many parents feel like their formerly "good eater" is now living on air. Not true. There is also the matter of the emerging will of the toddler---he or she wants to do it "their way". This can produce contests of will between parent and toddler, frustration, even tantrums and tears---and the kid isn't too happy, either!

Here are some strategies to employ to get a picky eater to eat. And remember that the best inducement for healthy eating is to see the adults in his or her life eating healthy, too. (Compiled from a variety of sources, including your text, and materials from the American Dietetic Association).

1. Have some quiet time before snacks and meals.
2. Set the example—if you want your child to eat a variety of healthy foods, you should, too. 3. Even if you aren't eating, be nearby while your child eats—sit with them, if possible. This is for safety, and to make meals a time for being sociable.
4. Reward with affection and attention, not food. (No M&M's in the bathroom to reward "poopies" during potty training!)
5. Don't label any food as "forbidden"—this just make the food that much more attractive to children.
6. Allow children to make food choices (you can decide on a few items, and let the child choose which they would prefer).
7. Offer raw vegetables and fruits as snacks, finger foods, dipping foods. These are especially good for snacks. Such foods are bulky, and may interfere with a child being able to take in enough protein and overall energy at meal times.
8. Allow children to do some food preparation themselves, even if it makes a mess—attempting to make a meal gives children a sense of self esteem, and some appreciation for the effort involved in preparing meals for the family.
9. As often as possible, make meal times a family time, not a TV time. When attention is distracted away from the food, it is much easier to overeat.
10. Don't place a big emphasis on desserts. Have them, when possible, on the table along with the other dishes. This way dessert is just another part of the meal, and not a food extravaganza.
11. Use appropriately sized utensils, plates, cups, glasses, etc. for children. Some clumsiness with eating may be due to the wrong sized utensils, and does nothing to boost a child's confidence in being able to feed themselves.
12. Until your child has passed age 2, don't serve them low-fat or nonfat foods. They need the fatty acids (and the cholesterol) for normal growth and development, especially of the nervous system. Over age 2 a child can follow similar guidelines as the rest of the family—30% or less of total energy intake, with only 7-!0% from saturated fats.
13. For picky eaters, serve at at least one food with meals that they usually like.
14. Get the child involved with some of the menu planning and grocery shopping that is routinely done—this makes them more interested in the food when it is served and eaten.
15. Young children (and sometimes not so young children!) like plain foods—no sauces, no nuts, no peppers, no gravies—just plain, plain food. And, if keeping the foods from touching each other facilitates eating, then use little dishes, or a plate with dividers to help mealtimes along.
16. Serve moist foods (like applesauce) with foods that are more dry. Serve liquids in smaller glasses, so that filling up on a liquid won't interfere with eating the meal.
17. Offer children less than you think they will want or need, and let them ask for seconds (again, small servings).
18. Respect it when your child says they are full. Don't ever force a child to be a member of the "clean plate club." This discourages paying attention to their own internal signals of fullness, and encourages overeating.
19. Younger children need to eat 5-6 times a day (small meals), so make sure snacks and meals are nutritious. Even so, it may be difficult for very young children to meet all of their vitamin and mineral needs. Consult with your family doctor or pediatrician if you have concerns about the need for a supplement.
20. A child-size portion of a food is 1 TBSP of the food for each year of the child's age—for example, a 6 year old could eat (theoretically), 6 TBSP of a food, though you would probably want to encourage more variety than that! Happy Meal Times!

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