The Doctor is In: When your toddler is a picky eater
February 12, 2009
As a pediatrician, I am frequently asked what to do about toddlers who are picky eaters. Picky eating is very common. Most children go through a phase of picky eating and some will remain finicky. So, what's a parent supposed to do about it?
In general, it's a parent's job to decide what and when your child should eat; your child gets to decide if and how much to eat. That means you schedule and prepare healthy meals and snacks for your children. Whether or not they eat what is offered is up to them. If you offer a variety of foods, they will usually find something they like.
Some parents worry when a child doesn't want to eat what is offered. Don't worry if your child skips a meal. It is not unusual, especially for toddlers, to have only one or two “good” meals a day. If you can remain lovingly neutral on how much your child eats, mealtime will be a pleasant experience.
Another question I frequently hear is: How much food should my toddler eat? Typically, three meals and two to three healthy snacks a day at predictable times is a good guideline. And, in general, serving sizes of about a tablespoon per year of life is a good estimate. If your child eats poorly at one of these times, she can count on the next snack or meal. Active play times between meals helps build up an appetite for the next meal.
Don't worry if children turn up their noses at a new food. It may take as many as six to 10 exposures to a new food for a child to finally accept it. You cannot force a child to eat anything, but repeated exposures may help win them over. Chances are your child is not eliminating a whole food group.
A good way to tell if your child is getting the nutrients he or she needs is to take a look at overall growth. When children are growing properly along the appropriate growth curve, you can usually feel confident they are getting what they need.