I 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.”