Questions for Connie
Can a toddler survive on air?

Q. My toddler seems to survive on air! Even when she shows interest in food, there are only three or four foods she will eat. Any ideas?

A. The “norm” for toddlers is to view foods suspiciously, display picky eating behavior and confuse parents by eating seemingly nothing one day and voraciously the next. Children between the ages of one and three often go into food jags, eating mostly one or two foods, and then they get over it. This is normal behavior for a toddler. The rapid growth that occurs during the first year of life slows considerably at about age one. Thus, the dip in appetite seen in most tots reflects this slowing growth rate. Also, as toddlers become more independent, they begin to exert control over a variety of situations. Parents who try to push or cajole toddlers into eating often end up in a lose-lose power struggle. It’s important to relax and trust your child’s judgement since the ultimate goal is to establish positive lifetime food habits.

Parents can also avoid focusing on one particular meal and instead ask, “What did they eat for the day or even the week?” Concerned parents may want to keep a food diary to help track what their toddler is actually eating over the course of a few days. Finally, make sure your child’s growth is monitored regularly by your child’s health care provider.

More tips for feeding toddlers:
Continue to offer your toddler a wide variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups, including whole milk until her second birthday. Whole milk provides the extra fat needed for brain development for children under the age of two. Nonfat or 1% milk are acceptable after the age of two.
Offer healthful snacks at regularly scheduled time between meals. Think of snacks as “mini-meals” that contain smaller portions of nutritious foods. Snack time should not be equated with “treat” time.
To promote healthy feeding development, allow her to feed herself, never force her to try a new food and accept it as final when she indicates she is full.
Parents teach best by example. Model healthful eating at meal and snack time.

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Connie Evers, MS, RD is a registered dietitian, author and child nutrition specialist. Her website is http://nutritionforkids.com