Infants and toddlers have an amazing ability to self-regulate their food intake to match their needs. They don’t overeat. It is only when parents and caregivers push them to eat more food or when they are given huge portion sizes that they overeat.
Losing the ability to self-regulate will often lead to eating beyond fullness and weight gain as children and adults.
Try not to worry about how much they eat and instead focus on what they are eating. Offer your toddler a variety of unprocessed whole foods and add fruits and vegetables to all meals. Then allow them to eat what they want without pressure. I’m not saying it is easy. In fact, it is frustrating and worrisome as a parent. Just trust in knowing that they will eat as much as they want and need.
One way to ensure they are eating as much as they want, is to give them a small serving of their meal and allow them to come back for more. This is a great way to teach them how to have a healthy relationship with food.
If you are not sure what the correct serving size your toddler should be eating, follow the Tablespoon strategy. The Tablespoon strategy is 1 tablespoon per year of age or a ¼ of an adult serving size. For a 1-2 year old you would offer…
· Grains: 1/4-1/2 slice of bread or 1/4-1/2 cup of pasta or cereal
· Dairy: 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, yogurt or cheese
· Vegetables: 1-2 tablespoons
· Fruits: 1-2 tablespoons
· Protein: 1-2 tablespoons
As you see toddlers do not require much food. Realizing just how much toddlers need should hopefully make you feel less frustrated and more at ease.
This is a picture of the twins' snack today. I served them cheerios, banana and veggie cheddar sticks. I like to offer them a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal, hoping they will at least take a bite. My daughter did not eat her fruit; she ate 1/2 of her vegetables and all of her cheerios. My son devoured his fruit and ate about 3/4 of the vegetables and cheerios.
Now I just need to figure out how to stop my children from dropping their food onto the floor. Any tips?