Toddlers who are learning to assert themselves say “no!”, and enjoy doing it. Parents tend to worry more when they refuse food and meals than when they refuse to wear a hat or socks for example. For them it is all part of the same game. If you find yourself in a food battleground keep calm and remember: It is your responsibility to provide good healthy food (following food combining) but it is up to your child to choose how much and which of those healthy foods he will eat.
Who is the best judge of the right quantity?
How much food a toddler eats each day can vary considerably and on days when he doesn’t eat well parents often worry unnecessarily.
A common mistake made is to believe that you, the parent knows better than your toddler how much he should eat. You may have in your mind a set quantity. It may be the contents of the jar you have opened, the quantity of food you have lovingly prepared or the amount another toddler has eaten. It may even be an educated guess based on roughly the quantities eaten over the previous few days. The snag in all this is that children’s appetites vary widely from day to day and on how they are feeling at the time.
It is very important to respect your child’s decision that he has eaten enough of what you are offering. Many problems are set up by extending the meal to coerce the child to eat more. The parent usually ends up losing; you invest time and effort with little return and your child can become miserable and upset. If this pattern occurs repeatedly, your child will begin to associate meal times with stress and anxiety and will try to avoid them.
Avoiding the problem:
Keep an open mind about the quantity needed. Some children grow very well on much smaller quantities than other children eat. Your child is telling you he has had enough when he:
Respect his decision and take the uneaten food away without showing with your body language or facial expression that you are upset or worried. In the long term it is important that children learn to know when they are full. Older children who haven’t learnt this feeling of satiety can eat larger quantities of food than they need and may become overweight or obese.
Remember to praise your child verbally, and with a smile, when he is eating. If he only receives your attention when he doesn’t eat, then he may refuse to eat to gain your attention.
Toddlers don’t need to eat well at every meal, every day.
The amount of each nutrient needed to keep him healthy is an average amount. Most nutrients are stored in the body and these stores will last him some time. If he doesn’t have milk one day his bones will not crack up. Be satisfied that over a period of two weeks or so, by eating more on some days and less on other days he will be getting on average what he needs. If each meal is balanced and nutritious, when he does eat well he will be getting plenty of nutrients.
Why might he eat less than usual?
Many children grow and develop quite normally even though they seem to eat much less than others of the same age. Ask your health visitor or GP to check your child’s growth and development before worrying unnecessarily.
Most feeding problems resolve with time but for some children they can become a long term problem and affect growth.
What can you do?