Anyone with a toddler knows that it can be tricky getting these little ones to eat – and especially to eat something healthy! There is an amazing book called How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much, by Ellyn Satter. I would highly recommend it to any parent with kids of any age. The following article highlights some key points that Ellyn Satter teaches about feeding toddlers.
Normal Toddler Behavior that Sometimes Worries Parents:
Slower growth the 2nd and 3rd year than the 1st.
Strong food preferences and picky eating.
Refusals to eat.
Playing with food.
Division of Responsibility:
Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented:
Selecting and buying food
Making and presenting meals
Regulating timing of meals and snacks
Presenting food in a form a child can handle
Allowing eating methods a child can master
Making family mealtimes pleasant
Helping the child to participate in family meals
Helping the child to attend to his eating
Maintaining standards of behavior at the table
The parent is NOT responsible for:
How much a child eats
Whether the child eats
How the child’s body turns out
Create a Meal and Snack Routine:
Toddlers no longer benefit from being fed on demand. They benefit from set meal and snack times and scheduled food availability.
Toddlers have little tummies. Be sure to offer a planned meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
In the long run, toddlers eat better if the parent is firm about adhering to this structure. The schedule enables parents to be in charge of what the child eats at the set meal and snack times and doesn’t allow for cookies and other special requests to be given whenever they are asked for.
With regular scheduled feedings, toddlers have time to get hungry between feeding times, and hunger increases the chances of them trying new foods.
Cut food into very small pieces. Toddlers often do not chew their food and choke easily.
Don’t serve special request foods to the toddler at meal time. Make one meal for the whole family, put some of each type of food on the toddlers plate, and let him/her decide what to eat. He/she might decide not to eat her vegetables or not to eat anything at all. That is ok. The toddler will make up for it another meal or another day.
Keep offering foods that the toddler has previously refused. Eventually they will try them and like them.
Offer all food items in a neutral fashion. If a toddler can tell that you are desperate to have them try something, they will likely refuse it.
Toddlers will eat when they are hungry once you demonstrate to them that you won’t try to force them to eat.
Portion sizes for toddlers are very small, so they don’t have to eat very much to get what they need.
Toddlers touch and play with new foods as a way to learn about them. This is healthy, normal behavior, and leads to them trying new foods.
If a toddler starts throwing their food, it usually means that they are done eating.
Limit juice (100% juice only) to 4 oz per day, and as part of a set meal or snack. Limit milk drinking to meal time, and stick to water between meals. If toddlers fill up on juice and milk between meals, they will not be hungry enough to eat what is offered at meal time. Soda should not be given to toddlers.
Don’t make dessert a reward. This only reinforces the idea that sweets are more desirable than healthy foods.
Source: How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much. by Ellyn Satter