Don’t Worry – Your Toddler Is Probably Totally Eating Enough

shutterstock_80955547I know a lot of moms who worry that their toddlers aren’t eating enough. I know exactly zero who think that their toddlers are eating too much. It turns out we’re all probably worried for nothing. We are feeding toddlers enough.

In a country where portion sizes seem to be getting larger and larger, it’s no surprise that most of us think our toddlers aren’t consuming enough. It turns out that after the rapid growth they experience in the first few years, their growth and need to consume slows down a bit as they become toddlers. Add to that the fact that their stomachs are still pretty tiny – about the size of their little fist – and you can understand why they don’t always consume as much as we think they should.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that we feed age appropriate serving sizes to encourage healthy eating habits. They recommend a tablespoon serving size of each type of food you are serving at each meal. As in, two tablespoons of avocado, two tablespoons of pasta and two tablespoons of carrots. My child definitely puts that down in a sitting.

This is exactly the type of advice I like to get. Give me a measurement of some kind so I know if I am doing it right. I need guidance. They also recommend that you remove your child’s plate when she starts playing with her food or becoming restless and never pushing the “clean your plate” rule. We should be teaching our children to stop eating when they are full – not when all of the food is gone.

If you still feel like your child isn’t getting enough food, Dr. Sears recommends that you choose some foods that have a longer table-life – like apples, carrots, cheese, and cereal o’s – make a plate for your child and let them graze throughout the day. “Place the food on an easy-to-reach table. As your toddler makes his rounds through the house, he can stop, sit down, nibble a bit, and, when he’s done, continue on his way.”

The 1,000 to 1,300 calorie guideline always seemed a little daunting. These serving size recommendations help put things into perspective. And if your toddler doesn’t meet these recommendations daily, Dr. Sears says don’t worry. “Toddlers from one to three years need between 1,000 and 1,300 calories a day, yet they may not eat this amount every day. Aim for a nutritionally-balanced week, not a balanced day.”

(photo: Edward Lara/

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  • Justme

    Getting my daughter to eat is never a problem. My child’s sitter once said “snack time is never over for N.” Like mother, like daughter.

    But the idea of taking the plate away when the child begins to play or throw food on the ground (or to the pups waiting at her feet) is brilliant. We’ve done that ever since she started on solid foods and we tell her “if you’re feeding the dogs I guess you’re done eating.”

    I don’t worry about how much or what she is eating – I put a few things I KNOW she will devour and then one thing that is new or a little different…..but I don’t make a big deal out of her eating it. I think the exposure to a new food and resisting a power struggle over it is more important than the toddler actually eating it.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      I try not to worry too much about it, too – but it’s good to know that it’s not a huge amount of food that they have to get down!

    • Justme

      Now I’m a little worried that she is eating TOO much. Ha!!

  • Paul White

    I was told to clean my plate pretty often as a child; I suspect that’s why I still have a hard time leaving food on it as an adult…which is definitely not a good thing! (I adapted by buying small plates and just taking relatively little food when I eat dinner now).

  • Mary

    “We should be teaching our children to stop eating when they are full – not when all of the food is gone”.

    This! It’s exactly what I’ve done with my kids since day one and my kids are normal weight (slightly underweight if you ask me). I’ve seen a lot of people force their kids to clean their plate and their kids are overweight, it’s very sad. And I didn’t read it in a book or article, it’s common sense.

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