Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pay Attention to Your Child’s Eating Habits throughout the Week, Not Day

By: Heather Dyson

Toddlers are not known for their consistency, at least when it comes to their diet. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 are busy discovering the world around them and often don’t have time to eat. They do not overthink eating like adults do but rather eat based on their appetite and what their body tells them they need. While we might look at a typical day to assess if an adult is meeting his or her nutritional needs, with toddlers we look at a typical week. There is no need to worry if your little one doesn’t eat much one day or if he only eats apples - that is normal. Pay attention to what your child eats during an entire week, which will give you a better idea if he has a well-balanced diet.

Because of their small stomachs, toddlers tend to eat in small amounts throughout the day, which is why snacking is such an important part of their diet. Be sure to have set meal and snack times and offer a variety of healthy foods. Snacks should be thought of as mini-meals, an opportunity for extra nutrition. Great toddler-friendly snacks include (but are not limited to):     
  • Fresh fruit cut into bite sized pieces and a whole wheat graham cracker
  • A half sandwich with a thin spread of peanut, almond or sunflower butter and banana on a slice of whole grain bread
  • Plain yogurt with a little honey and fresh berries (12 months or older)
  • ½ a string cheese and whole wheat goldfish crackers
  • Cucumbers or halved grape tomatoes with yogurt dip or hummus
  • Apple slices with peanut or sunflower butter and yogurt dip (mix equal parts nut butter and vanilla yogurt, sprinkle with cinnamon)

These snacks are also great for the toddler on the go!

The best way to ensure your toddler is getting a well-balanced diet is to offer a wide variety of healthy food, which includes protein (meats, eggs, beans, dairy, nut butters), vegetables, fruit, whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa) and healthy fats (avocado, nut butters, olives or olive oil). Food allergies should always be considered with children. Meet with a Registered Dietitian for safe meal and snack ideas if you have a food allergic child.

For more information on creating a healthy plate, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

What health snacks does your child love? Share your favorites with us!


About the Author: Heather Dyson is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian who currently focuses on counseling patients with a variety of health situations, and in ages ranging from infancy to elderly. Click here to learn more about Heather.

21 comments :

  1. How many snacks a day would you recommend? My 14 month old wants to eat ALL THE TIME. We usually eat three times a day with two snacks. It just seems like he eats quite a bit for his age. He doesn't really weigh that much though (he's in the 50%).

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    1. This is Christine- the Choosy Kids mom :) I asked Heather, the blog author, for her reply but from my experience I would suspect a growth spurt. I have never denied food to my now 2 year old and she is now able to tell me she's hungry so it all works out. We choose healthy snack options and try different meals each week to expand her tastes :)

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    2. From Heather (blog author): 3 meals and 2 snacks is fine. Be sure to have the child seated while eating and have meal and snack times adequately spaced so child is hungry enough at mealtimes to eat an appropriate meal. Also be sure to include healthy protein foods and healthy fats and not rely on just crackers, etc for snacks, which will just leave the child hungry a little while later. Cut up string cheese, chopped hard boiled eggs, whole milk yogurt are some good options as well as fruit and soft veggies.

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  2. Very helpful tip! I remember as a new mom, being so worried about the little amount my kids would eat in one day.

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    1. Hi Ai LTM! This is Christine - the Choosy Kids mom. I too remember being so worried about what my little one would eat but they know just the right amount to eat! I still to this day always think she should eat more but she knows when she is "done".

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  3. Thank you for this article! It's hard some days to only watch your daughter eat two bites of dinner and say she's done. But I have to remember, that her body is telling her that she is full. To reassure myself, I always include one item at dinner that I know she really enjoys. If she doesn't want to eat that item, I know that she's really not hungry.

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    1. That is a great idea, Twitchetts! Thanks for your comment :)

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  4. Very helpful! Such a great read! Thanks for sharing dearyyyy ❤❤

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    1. Thank YOU for stopping by :) ~Christine

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  5. My daughter eats like a trucker, and she is 3! I understand snacking, but she is hungry every five minutes. I try to keep the snacks to healthy fruit and veggies now, but the toddler convenience food was a bad habit that I finally broke.

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    1. Strawberries and bananas are a big hit at my house, but so are the toddler convenience foods like crunchies and melts. Some day I hope she doesn't care for them anymore but at this point, if that is what she wants to eat, I am letting her because at least she's eating something!! ~Christine, Choosy Kids Mom

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  6. Very helpful, you've given me some ideas.

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  7. Great tips and ideas, and definitely helps me feel better about the toddler diet ☺

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    1. The toddler diet is such a stressful thing for parents but in the end, each kid knows what they want to eat. We just have to guide them to make healthy choices along the way. Thanks for stopping by :) ~Christine, Choosy Kids Mom

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  8. So important to let kids develop their down sense of of appetite too! Thank you for the tips!

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  9. My oldest son was sent to the Pediatric Endocrinologist because of short stature. Nothing is wrong the docs just wanted extra blood tests to look for hormone imbalances. They had us fill out a food chart for a week. It was helpful and reassuring to me to see how much he was actually eating. Like you said, it wasn't a lot at a time, but it was often.
    Nut flours, healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil, flax meal and cod liver oil are good things to think about adding to your toddlers diet if you feel like they aren't getting enough calories.

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    1. Thank you for your tips!! Do you have any recipes you could share with us for including those items in meals? I'd love to share them with everyone! If so, email them to me at christinecox0925@gmail.com ~Christine, Choosy Kids Mom

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  10. These are excellent tips. My husband can attest to the fact that our three-year-old's eating habits have been driving me nuts. It seems like he barely eats anything, but we do try to provide lots of healthy snacks.

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  11. I'm sure all parents have that same feeling. Just stay calm and know your little one will eat when he is hungry :) thanks for stopping by!

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