Teaching your toddler to eat healthy
Now that your toddler is feeding herself, mealtimes may be messy—and take longer. For every spoonful she gets into her mouth, three may drop onto her bib or onto the tray.
Resist the urge to move mealtime along and feed her yourself. Modeling by you and practice by her will help your toddler develop the motor skills and confidence needed to eat independently—and only drop some food from the spoon.
Handling picky eaters
One minute she loves peas. The next minute she's making the "yuck" face. What gives? If your toddler turns her nose up at her meal, just say, "This is what we're having today." No further explanation is needed.
Of course your toddler may refuse to eat. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: A hungry toddler is more likely to eat at the next scheduled snack or meal and may be even more willing to try something new.
If your toddler has only eaten mac and cheese for the past five days, don’t worry. Some toddlers go through "food jags,” wanting to eat the same few foods over and over. If this happens, continue to offer a variety of foods so you're prepared when she's ready to try something new.
Is she eating enough?
You may think your toddler is barely eating a thing, but remember that your toddler's tummy is tiny. That's why she needs smaller serving sizes and frequent meals or snacks to deliver the nutrition she needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with a fourth of an adult serving of a food and increasing the amount if your toddler is still hungry. For example, an adult serving of cooked pasta is one cup. Offer ¼ cup of cooked pasta to start, and watch for your toddler's hunger and fullness cues. Now is the time to throw out the "clean your plate" rule.
Toddlers get about 25% of their calories from snacks. Unlike adults, snacks for toddlers are really mini meals. They need to include nutritious offerings to ensure that your toddler gets the nutrients she needs. Try offering your toddler four to six small meals a day of wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt), and meat or poultry.
Resist the urge to feed chips, candy, or cookies every day. These are fine as once-in-awhile snacks but they don’t offer the daily nutrition your toddler needs. As long as you provide a variety of nutritious meals throughout the day and vary the offerings within the main food groups, your toddler will most likely eat a balanced diet. If you have questions about your toddler's diet, be sure to talk with your pediatrician.
Print the PDF below for a sample of what your toddler may be eating: