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Nutrition for Toddlers: How Does it Change?

Nutrition for Toddlers: How Does it Change?

You may feel that because your toddler is moving so much more, she needs more food to provide extra fuel, but she'll actually start to eat less. Once her first birthday passes, your tiny tot's growth slows down, so she needs less food than what you were providing in those important first 12 months. Besides, your little one has way too much going on now to think about eating.

Her appetite, how much she wants to eat, and what she wants to eat will vary every day but don't worry, it's completely normal. Today it seems like she hasn't had more than a piece of toast, but tomorrow you'll feel like you're feeding her all day long. When it comes to nutrition for toddlers, it's best to look at your child's intake and variety over an entire week to see if she's getting everything she needs.

Even though your little one is now a toddler, breast milk still plays an important role in her diet for up to 2 years and beyond.

Changing behaviours

Just as you were starting to get the hang of things, they begin to change again. Below are some eating habits you can expect from your toddler as she grows.

12 – 18 months

18 – 24 months

  • Will eat a variety of foods
  • Likes eating with hands
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Uses spoon and fork awkwardly
  • Turns spoon in mouth
  • Wants foods others are eating
  • Tries different behaviours to see how you will react (like throwing or spitting food)
  • Appetite decreases
  • Likes eating with hands
  • Likes routines, rituals become important
  • Uses spoon and fork with more skill
  • Likes trying foods with different textures
  • Will display food likes and dislikes
  • May show a preference for drinking milk and other liquids

All grown up

Your toddler may refuse any help with eating and you should continue to encourage her to feed herself with a spoon, though hands are okay too. If she does become frustrated it is okay to offer assistance, if she lets you, but don’t take over entirely. Feeding is an important skill for her as she grows and develops.

Evolving tastes

Your toddler will be sure to let you know what she does and doesn’t like to eat. Sometimes what she liked yesterday she will dislike today and vice versa. It’s all normal and the best thing you can do is remain calm and try not to show your frustration. Here are some tips:

  • Serve your toddler when she is hungry and happy
  • Serve new foods with a small amount of a familiar, well-liked food
  • You may need to offer a food up to 10 times before it gets accepted, offer the food prepared in different ways and leave a few days between each offering
  • Realize that she may turn down foods, a lot, and that’s okay. Offer small portions and be prepared to eat the leftovers. The bonus here is that your toddler will see you enjoying the food!

All eyes on you

Your little one is watching you, what you eat, how you react to the food on your plate and how you react to your toddler’s eating habits. She will try different behaviours at the table to see what you do. When it comes to your own food likes and dislikes, try to keep them to yourself. Be cautious not to scrunch your nose when the broccoli passes you so that your little one isn’t influenced by your personal food preferences. Steer clear of using food as a bribe or punishment. Know and accept that your toddler will decide what, how much or whether she will eat. As difficult as it may be, your responsibility is to trust that she knows her hunger and fullness cues and to decide what types of foods to offer her at mealtime.

Meal time vs. playtime

Is your little one far too busy to eat? Maybe she is only interested in eating for a couple minutes and then wants to go back to playing. One way to encourage mealtime is to give your little one a few minutes of warning before making her switch her focus from playing to eating. You may also want to add in a more pronounced break such as hand washing. When you get to the table, keep the focus on food. Avoid having to get up as much as possible, leave the TV off and put mobile devices away.

Even when you are doing everything you can, your tot may still not be interested in eating and you shouldn’t have to force her. Try to have her stay at the table for at least 20 minutes. This helps to establish routine and teaches her that meal time is eating time and that when she leaves the table she has to wait until the next meal or snack. This may not be as easy as it sounds, so you may want to be armed with some table activities like colouring or be ready to engage in some toddler talk.

Keeping your cool

At around 16-18 months picky eaters are not uncommon. Everything is so new that being choosey is part of the package. But if you've tried to introduce new foods and your toddler didn't bite, be careful not to show your disappointment. Giving extra attention to what they're not eating reinforces that unwanted behaviour and may lead to even greater resistance next time. Get more tips on feeding your picky eater.

If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to contact us for additional support.

 
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