According to Canada’s Food Guide, children in the 2-3 year age range should consume 4 servings of Vegetables and Fruit, 3 servings of Grain Products, 2 servings of Milk and Alternatives and 1 serving Meat and Alternatives. (Check link to Canada’s Food Guide for serving sizes). Because children at this age tend to eat very small servings at meals and snacks, several small servings from each of the food groups will help them meet their needs. A child’s appetite may vary from day to day, and you may think they ‘eat like a bird’ at times, but if your child’s growth is normal there is no need to be concerned. It is important to keep a positive attitude about food and meals in general. Avoid discussing a child’s appetite in front of him or her and keep servings of snacks and drinks small between meals. Keeping a regular schedule for meals (4-5 hours apart) and snacks (2 hours before a meal) can help ensure toddlers come to the table ready to eat.
Remember to keep portion sizes appropriate for your child. Forcing a young child to eat is not a good idea. Inviting your child to help with meal preparation (stirring, adding items to a recipe, carrying cups or utensils to the table) can help make the child feel that he/she has contributed to the meal and family life.
If you think your child does not eat enough of a certain food group, try offering small servings of that food in various ways throughout the day. For example, your child may not enjoy cooked vegetables, but he or she may enjoy raw vegetables with dip. Just make sure these items are cut into thin strips or smaller pieces to avoid choking. For example: carrots, grapes or cherry tomatoes can be a choking hazard if they are not cut up into small pieces . If your child dislikes the texture of meat, he or she may prefer ground meat in pasta or meat loaf. Alternatively your child may prefer eggs, cheese, beans, hummus, or nut butters which are also very good sources of protein. If your child dislikes drinking milk, he or she may prefer yogurt or cheese, or may like milk with cereal. Sometimes, cutting foods into interesting shapes like hearts or stars may interest your toddler more than the usual circles and cubes.
Certain foods such as popcorn, nuts, chunky peanut butter, seeds, raisins, hard candies and chewing gum are choking hazards and should be avoided. Hotdogs and/or sausages should be cut lengthwise into quarters before cutting into bite-size pieces. Grapes, berries and baby tomatoes should be cut in quarters or smaller. Don’t give smooth, sticky foods, such as peanut butter, on their own. - serve them on toast or crackers. Remove sharp things like bones in fish, toothpicks in snacks or skewers in meat. It is important to ask your child to sit while eating to avoid distraction.
Dieting is not appropriate for children. If you feel that your child is gaining weight too quickly take a look at the food and lifestyle choices of your family.
· Are they snacking constantly?
· Are fried foods and/or fast foods a common meal?
· Is pop or other sweetened drinks commonly in the fridge?
· Is food being used as a reward?
· Although all foods are OK in moderation, it is a good idea to limit unhealthy choices.
· Is your child active enough?
· Do they spend a lot of time in front of a television or computer?
· Do you, as parents, role model active living?
Try going out for walks, swimming, playing ball, etc., to promote physical activity.
Here are a few helpful links:
· Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/order-commander/index-eng.php
· Physical Activity: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pa-ap/index-eng.php
Nutrition for Toddlers
by Clara Lavandier, RD