Tackling Toddler Nutrition
The 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.