Your toddler is beginning to test her wings with regard to eating. She's learning that she has control over some things and whether she eats or not is one of them. As the parent of a toddler your job is to select and prepare the food for meals and leave the eating up to her. Trust her to eat what she needs. That means some days she may eat very little and on other days she will eat more.
Young children's appetites vary tremendously from meal to meal and day to day. That's normal eating for a young child. Because children in this age group aren't growing as much as before their energy needs won't be as high. A general guide to the amount of food to offer is one tablespoon for each year of age of each of the foods served at that meal. (A two year old serving would be two tablespoons). The key word here is offer, it's the child's job to decide how much and even if they will eat what's offered.
How you approach the serving of vegetables has a lot to do with how well children will eat. Offer a variety of vegetables and let your children see you eating and enjoying them. Keep offering them even if they are initially rejected. Many vegetables contain stronger tasting compounds that are initially rejected. Children may be encouraged to taste, but shouldn't be forced or bribed into eating. Eventually they will learn to enjoy vegetables.
It's natural for children to be wary of new foods. Sometimes it takes as many as 10 - 15 exposures to a food before a child is willing to taste it. Try offering the new food in different ways, making sure to offer the new food with familiar foods so the entire meal isn't foreign to your child. Lastly, make sure your child sees you enjoying the new food. Children are great imitators and will eventually want to try some of this new food they see you enjoying.
Follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding recommended by feeding expert, Ellyn Satter, RD, ACSW. As a parent your job is to determine "what, when and where" with regard to meals. It's the child's job to decide how much to eat at each meal. When planning meals take into consideration your child's likes and dislikes. Try to offer one familiar food that is liked at each meal. Then let your child decide what and how much to eat. If they leave the table without eating anything do not offer a substitute, have them wait until the next meal or snack to eat. The consequence of not eating (hunger) will help them to know that they need to eat something at meals to curb their hunger.
Using a bribe is really just another form of pressuring a child to eat. It adds to mealtime tension and won't help them to like spinach. In fact, according to Dr. Leann Birch, (a Penn State University professor doing research on children's food acceptance), children learn to value the foods that are offered as a reward more than the food they are being bribed to eat.
Children are born with an internal ability to regulate how much they eat based on their hunger level. They will eat a balanced diet if they are offered healthful, balanced choices over time. Forcing a child to eat leads to a power struggle and teaches the child to ignore their internal cues for hunger and satiety.
Do not become a short order cook. Have structured meals and snacks where you offer a variety of food - a main dish, milk, fruit or vegetable, bread to all family members and let your child pick and choose from what's available. Include one food that your know your child usually likes. Involving children in the preparation and selection of meal components also helps them feel more comfortable trying new foods and they benefit by learning new skills at the same time.
No. The impact of diets and their affect on children's growth has not been well studied so pediatric nutrition and feeding experts such as Joanne Ikeda, MA, RD., University of California at Berkeley advise against it. Children and adolescents are not "little adults". Their bodies are growing and developing. Dieting generally deprives the body of the nutrients needed to support growth and development. Continue to offer a variety of nutritious foods at meals and snacks, letting the children decide how much to eat at any given meal. Further information is available in a book by Ellyn Satter, RD, ACSW titled How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But Not Too Much. If your child is significantly overweight talk to your pediatrician and ask for advice and referral to a dietician who can help your family with food selection and structuring meals and snacks to meet the needs of all family members.
Fruit juice can be a part of a nutritious diet as long as you choose products that are 100% juice and limit the amount you serve. The controversy over juice centers around the quantities that are consumed. Children who consume larger amounts tend to fill up on the juice, leaving little room for more nutritious foods and beverages such as milk.
Children between the ages of 1 and 6 should consume no more than 4 - 6 ounces per day. Two servings for a total of 8 - 12 ounces should be the limit for children age 6 - 12 years.
The calcium in calcium-fortified juices appears to be readily absorbed by the body so it is an acceptable alternative to milk. However there are other key nutrients found in milk such as magnesium and vitamin D which are also needed for bone development. For this reason it's important to discuss additional food supplements with your child's health care professional and/or registered dietician, if your child is unable to drink milk.