Tackling Toddler Nutrition

toddler nutritionThe call came one day. It was from my child’s caregiver. “You know, I was going to write you a note from Ella today. She doesn’t like peas.” Well, I have been trying. I've put them in pasta. I've put them in Mac and cheese. I've given them to her warm. I've given them to her cold. She picks them out. She squishes them between her fingers. She throws them on the floor. Sound familiar? If you have a toddler, you may also be struggling with knowing if they are getting the nutrition they need in their diets.

Toddlers (generally defined as ages 1-3 years) are working to gain independence and control in their lives. Additionally, their growth rate slows a bit, meaning a possible decrease in their appetite. In order to deal with these factors, think differently about how and when your child eats.

Toddlers are snackers. Instead of three major meals, consider offering snacks (including a beverage – milk and water are good options – be careful of too much juice) every two to three hours. Additionally, consider the time and place where your child is being fed. Toddlers are active learners, meaning too much activity will only take their focus away from the task at hand. Finally, be on the lookout for signs that your child may be growing tired or too hungry. Get them food before either of these issues becomes a barrier to mealtime success.

Now that you have a plan for when and where to feed your tiny tyke, you may be looking for some good suggestions. As with life, variety is key. Your child’s daily diet should include items from each of the main food groups
(i.e. meat/milk/fruit/vegetable/grains). However, if one day the peas don’t go over well, don’t fret. Pay attention to what your child eats over a few days or a week. This will give you a much better vision of your child’s diet and their possible needs.

Also, remember that what might sound tasty to you may not be appropriate for your toddler. Think simply – pieces of lunchmeat, cooked eggs, pudding, cheese, mashed potatoes, toast, rice, avocado, etc. What if your child doesn’t like these? Keep trying. Reinforce behaviors you want, ignore those you don’t.

With a few tips and a little trial and error, maybe one day your child will be asking to please pass the peas.

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Tackling Toddler Nutrition

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9 comments

  1. Katrice says:

    My 20 month old daughter doesn’t like to eat. I have tried everything. Sometimes she will nibble a piece then play with it and then throws it on the floor. Do love apples, bananas, grapes, and definitely strawberries but I don’t think she is getting enough nutrients. She is still drinking out of the bottle and prefers to drink lots of milk instead of eating. I know the doctors said too much milk will cause anemia and I dont wont that to happen. She will drink from a toddler cup with a straw but it has to be something else other than milk and I dont want her to have too much juice. That is the only toddler cup that she will drink out of. All others she would throw on the floor. Any advice will be appreciated.

    • Megan Klay says:

      Hi Katrice – Have you tried continue to spoon feed her mush just so she’s getting nutrients and you’re introducing some new flavors? You could also try the pre-made baby food pouches, or you can buy empty pouches on Amazon and fill them with homemade pureed foods. Also, I would try your best to avoid juice and just give her water. Juice is filled with a lot of sugar and is really not good for babes. I hope this helps!

  2. Anna says:

    I am also having trouble with my 20 month old. She stopped drinking her milk. She’s never been a big milk eater, we’re down to 2 a day, morning and night since about 14 months. But as of late (for about 3 days) she refuses it altogether. I try putting it in a sippie cup, we have tried it all, but no interest. I give her yogurt, hot cereal with milk, and cheese, but I’m afraid she’s not getting the proper calcium and nutrition she needs. Please help, has this been an issue for anyone? Her Doctor said that this was fine, and normal because she’s eating more. And he also said to put Vitamin D drops in her water everyday, which I have been doing. Also when should be weaning them off the bottle? Is it now? I’m still trying to give her her milk in a bottle.

  3. Dana says:

    I need some help ladies… My 20 mo. old refuses to eat ANYTHING new (or even her old favorites) and she used to be such a good eater! And when she does eat its only a nibble here or there then the rest gets spat out and thrown on the floor seconds later… It sounds terrible but she goes all day without food but its not from my lack of trying or laziness… I just don’t know what to do! Help please!

    • Megan Klay says:

      Has she had any troubles with digestion which could be turning her off from eating? Have you tried making a healthy smoothie so she can drink her nutrients? Is she feeding herself? If no, maybe she’s hoping for some independence at mealtime. If yes, maybe she’s regressing a bit and would like to be fed? Have you tried involving her in some food choices – you can have avocado, banana, or such and such – you pick! Good luck!

  4. EbyMom says:

    interesting article. Sometimes I incorporate vegetables in my meatballs. any how cos my little one loves meat balls. I think am on track. He eats fried eggs but when I cook it, he removes the yolk and eat only the albumen.

  5. Marilyn says:

    Good information!

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