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At 18 months old, kids do self-regulate. Their appetites change from day to day and even from meal to meal. It's okay for them too eat a little or a lot. Most parents worry that their toddler isn't eating enough, but most eat enough for growth and health.
These are the recommendations I was given for a 1 to 3 year old. I'm not a doctor but this is what I was told they need to grow and thrive!
Protein: 16 grams per day (a 6-oz glass of milk plus an ounce of meat)
At least 30% of their calories should come from fat.
Calories: Their daily calorie intake should be 40 calories per inch of height.
Calcium: 800 mg. The 6oz of milk still leaves them short by one serving; yogurt, leafy greens and cheese can give the rest.
Zinc: 10 mg. Mild zinc deficiencies are common. Meat, eggs and fish all contain zinc.
We had a problem getting my son to eat at this age too; in fact it was a struggle from birth. At 3 1/2 he is just now getting better about it. We were given a daily sample diet about like this, and told these are the minimums; if they eat more, great:
2-3 3oz cups of milk
4 servings of fruits/vegetables (a serving is a tbsp per year of age)
4 servings of bread/cereals (serving size is 1/3 to 1/4 the size of an adult serving, ie 1/4 slice of bread or toast); one serving should be iron-fortified baby cereal
2 servings of meat/beans/eggs (one serving is 1/2 ounce)
A meal should provide protein, bread or cereal, fruit or vegetable or both, and milk.
The best advice the doc gave me for my peace of mind is that toddlers are very much creatures of habit - they only like to eat what is familiar to them. You might have to offer a new food several times before a toddler gets used to the taste and smell of it. Let him know he needs to at least taste it - it's ok to spit it back out, but a taste is a must...don't force it, but be persuasive and really try to get at least a taste. Just because he doesn't want it the first few times doesn't mean he doesn't like it - he's just not used to it.
The other good thing I was told was about using dessert as a reward...most anyone can make room for sweets. Instead of giving ice cream or cookies, give fruit or yogurt or even pudding with added calcium. By making dessert a reward it makes them dislike the food they have to eat in order to get dessert, and makes dessert that much more desirable. If dessert is served as part of the meal, and is equally healthy, then you don't have to worry as much if they decide to eat dessert but not dinner.
A toddler's eating is erratic and unpredictable but viewed over several days his intake will meet his daily average needs. So don't worry if on some days he refuses to eat anything, it will be made up for elsewhere.
These are some suggestions of how to make the food more palatable to a toddler:
-present new foods at least twice a week
-offer new foods along with old favorites
-serve small, toddler size portions, too much on the plate can make him feel overwhelmed
-food should be bite size
-toddlers like colorful foods
-toddlers enjoy playing with their food, it is a part of learning about it, and it's ok within reason
-let them help in food preparation
-make food attractive; arrange it in the shape of an animal, a face, etc.
-offer limited choices. e.g ask "Do you want orange juice or apple juice?" instead of "What do you want to drink?"
Also, it sounds like he goes to daycare...why is he having Instant Breakfast for lunch? Is that what's offered or what you send? He should have real food for lunch...here are some ideas of things that are easy to send along:
-apple slices
-small boxes of favorite cereals
-Fig Newtons
-whole wheat, low salt pretzels
-mini muffins
-mini bagels
-cheese cubes
-rice cakes
-small juice boxes
-whole grain granola bars
Breads can be kept in the freezer to stay fresh longer, and put into a lunch box in the morning; they'll thaw out by lunch time.

I know I've been long-winded, but as a parent to an older toddler I know how frustrating and worrisome this can be! We had a real struggle with my son so I like to help others when I can...I hope some of this will be helpful to you! Good luck!





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