The toddler (ages 1 to 3) phase can often be challenging when it comes to feeding. Several developmental changes occur at this time. Toddlers are striving for independence and control. Their growth rate slows down and with this comes a decrease in appetite. These changes can make mealtime difficult. It is important for parents to provide structure and set limits for the toddler. The following are suggestions to help manage mealtimes so that the toddler gets the nutrition he or she needs:
- Avoid battles over food and meals.
- Provide regular meals and snacks.
- Be flexible with food acceptance as toddlers are often reluctant to try new things. If your toddler refuses a food, don’t make a big deal out of it, and try again in a few days or weeks.
- Be realistic about food amounts. Portion size should be about one-fourth the size of an adult portion.
- Limit juice intake; encourage whole fruit instead.
- Dessert should not be used as a reward. Try serving it with the rest of the food.
- Make the food easy for your toddler to eat:
—Cut food into bite-size pieces.
—Make some foods soft and moist.
—Serve foods near room temperature.
—Use ground meat instead of steak or chops.
—Use a child-size spoon and fork with dull prongs.
—Seat your child at a comfortable height in a secure chair.
- Prevent choking by:
—Slowly adding more difficult-to-chew foods.
—Avoiding foods that are hard to chew and/or swallow such as nuts, raw carrots, gum drops, jelly beans and peanut butter (by itself).
—Modifying high-risk foods: cut hot dogs in quarters, cut grapes in quarters, and cook carrots until soft.
—Always supervising your child when he or she is eating.
—Keeping your child seated while eating.