Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

I am worried about my two year old getting enough to eat. Should I push her to eat more?

That’s a very tough one for many parents, thanks for asking since so many are going through the same issue! I had the same concern when one of my children was that age too!

Parents worry whether they are giving their young children, who may not be able to voice their hunger or thirst, enough to eat each day. It seems like this age group is too busy discovering the world around them to sit down and eat. When they do eat, are they getting enough variety to meet all their nutritional needs?

The current thinking, according to the experts, is that we need to let our children learn to read their bodies’ signals for thirst and hunger. When we try to force them into eating, it usually ends up with a child who routinely overeats and becomes obese later in life since they haven’t learned to recognize fullness cues.

The clean plate club has disbanded! Family style meals where everyone sits at the table and serve themselves including the parents, helps the child learn many things including appropriate serving portions, manners and communication. Getting a ready-made plate, especially as they get older, isn’t teaching them portion control and satiety cues. Also, allow the child to finish what they have before they are offered more. Ask if they are “full” not “done” and say “if they are hungry they can have more”. It is ok if a child doesn’t want to eat the meal because over a 24 hour period they will balance out and eat when they are really hungry not just because the food is made.

A toddler grows at a slower rate than they did as an infant. Toddlers need about 1,000-1,400 calories, depending on their activity and size. They should have 3 oz. grains (half grains whole wheat), 1 cup fruit, 1 cup vegetables, 2 cups milk/dairy and 2 oz. protein. Two year olds can start drinking low fat milk. An ounce of grains is one slice of bread, ½ cup rice or pasta or hot cereal or 1 cup ready to eat cereal.

Keep offering variety and freshness, give water when they are thirsty keeping milk for meals and juice in limited portions. Good luck and enjoy your toddler!

2 Responses to I am worried about my two year old getting enough to eat. Should I push her to eat more?

  1. Good suggestion – parents of young kids often struggle with this issue. If they see their child stop eating after only a few bites, they think it is not enough. It is better to keep track of the different types of foods they try rather than the amount each time.

    I do believe in a clean plate; but the goal should be to encourage the child – as he grows up – to take only as much as he is able to eat at one time. Small portions at first, then take a second helping if still wanting to eat more.

    • I so agree Naveen. Having a clean plate only counts when the child says they are finished. If you start with an appropriate portion size, this allows the child to learn to listen to his or her body’s cues of satiety. This will give them lifelong health habits. Kids often eat a few bites at meals and will need high quality, nutritious snacks between meals to provide all the calories and nutrients they need. Thanks for your comments!

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