Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.
Nearly all toddlers are picky eaters. As if that is not enough of a challenge for parents, they also show irregular eating patterns. One day they might eat a lot, while another day it is only a few nibbles. This week, Registered Dietitian Alysa Bajenaru offers a few tips to help your little one develop regular eating habits.
|Alysa Bajenaru, RD, CPT
Question: Sometimes my son won’t eat for days, except nibbles – and other days he will eat like crazy. Is this normal and healthy? Should I enforce more regular eating patterns?
It is totally normal for a toddler’s eating habits to vary. With that being said, here are some tips that may help bring more consistency to your toddler’s diet.
Plan Snack Times. Many toddlers tend to “graze” all day on crackers, cereal and other snacks. Make “snack time” an actual time when your son sits at the table and eats a quality snack. Combining carbohydrates, protein and fat will help keep him satisfied until the next meal. Examples are string cheese and applesauce, peanut butter and celery with raisins on top, cheese and crackers with some grapes, plain yogurt with strawberries and granola.
Watch Liquid Calories. Offer milk (low-fat or fat-free after age 2) only at meal times. Toddlers who drink juice or milk all day may be drinking too many calories to be hungry at meal times. Offer water throughout the day and fresh fruit as part of meals and snacks instead of juice.
Involve your Toddler in Cooking and Meal Planning. If you have the space to grow a garden, I highly recommend gardening with your kids. From personal experience, my son will try anything that we have grown ourselves because he has a connection to the food. If I brought the same item home from the grocery store, he might wrinkle his nose at it. If you can’t plant a garden, involve your toddler in the grocery shopping by asking him to pick out fruits and vegetables that he wants to try. Make it fun and exciting! Invite your toddler to stand on a chair or sit on the counter while you prepare meals. Let him help with age-appropriate tasks. When kids are involved in the process, they feel a sense of accomplishment and are much more excited to eat.
Don’t Stress. Toddlers are always changing. Week to week, day by day, moment by moment. If you are setting up healthy eating patterns for your son, there’s a good chance that he will still have days when he doesn’t eat well. Don’t stress too much about it. He will most likely make up for it the next day.
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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.