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Child Nutrition – Infant to Toddler Nutrition Transition

Posted Mar 01 2010 8:44pm

By Colleen Hurley, RD Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist

Like most parents of toddlers, you may find yourself wondering- is he getting enough to eat? How much is he supposed to be eating? Is my toddler getting enough nutrients? This is a time in his life of what seems to be boundless energy. He is so busy, in fact, he may not even want to stop playing to have something to eat. Following up on the Tips for Feeding your Toddler  post, here are 3 top phrases your toddler may counter mealtimes with as well as the transition from infant to toddler nutrition.

 “I Can Do It Myself”

You will find at this stage of child development, your child may have very fickle eating habits: one day she may eat like horse, while other days barely touch her food. This is ok and a normal part of being a toddler. She is asserting her independence and that usually means deciding on her own food choices and feeding herself. 

 “I’m Not Hungry”

 It is important to remember a simple rule: It is your job as the parent to provide the healthy food, and it is your child’s job to decide how much to eat.   Forcing him to eat or finish everything on his plate can set him up for unhealthy eating habits in the future and encourages eating beyond fullness. It is rare that children will let themselves starve so keep providing healthy food at regular meal and snack times and he will eat when he is hungry. Keep in mind that most toddlers eat only 1-2 “meals″ per day and tend to “pick” at their plates. Your toddler doesn’t need to eat 3 full meals a day as adults do. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends about 40 calories per inch of height per day. Basically, if your toddler is 32 inches, he should be getting about 1,300 calories per day for adequate growth and weight gain.

“I don’t want to eat”

poutingThis phrase can be trickier to decipher as it could be a power play for independence or simply that she doesn’t want to stop what it is she’s doing to take the time to eat.  Perhaps you can explain that the game or toy can wait for a snack time but resist the temptation to battle your child over food because it is a lose - lose situation.   This does not mean you should become a short order cook either because she shouldn’t learn that if she is resistant with you, she can eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. If you have prepared the food, set it out and if she is hungry she will come and eat.  If she doesn’t not, you can wrap it up and save it for later.

Infant vs. Toddler Nutrition

Toddler and preschool diets are very different from that of babies. Even in the older infancy stage, most nutrition comes from breast milk or formula with a gradual increase of solid foods. One monumental milestone in child nutrition is weaning your child from a bottle to a cup, usually around 12-14 months old. This means your child will start requiring more nutrients from food yet it may also be more difficult to feed them than when he was a baby.  It might seem like an overwhelming process but remember to be patient as this too shall pass and as always, talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns.

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