18-36 Months: Eating with the Family - What you can Expect

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Your child will now be a confident eater, and will be able to manage almost everything she’s offered, although she will probably start to exert her authority and have very specific likes and dislikes! She’ll enjoy being a part of family mealtimes; make the most of her enthusiasm, and encourage her to try new foods.

Q: My toddler has become increasingly fussy and will eat only certain foods; is there a reason for this?
A: Rest assured that this is a normal stage in your toddler’s development. Almost all toddlers go through a stage of becoming a little obsessive about their lives, demanding to wear certain clothing, drinking only from a specific cup, or eating just a few chosen foods.

In some ways, toddlerhood is a mini-adolescence, when children assert themselves and their independence in no small measure. Unfortunately, this often extends to their choice of food, which is clearly an emotive issue with parents and carers, and bound to get a good response.

The simplest and best way to deal with this is to ignore food fads and “statements.” Continue to offer the same food you always have, and new foods too, and remove what he doesn’t eat without comment. When he realizes that his efforts to rebel aren’t getting any response, he’s likely to give in and resume his normal eating patterns.

Q: How big is a toddler-sized serving?
A: Hold out her hand and place a few grapes in it. Can she fit three or four? That’s roughly a portion, and you can use this calculation for all fruits and vegetables. A toddler-sized portion of protein (red meat, chicken, etc.) is the size of her palm, and a fish portion is the size of her hand. Obviously, some foods are eaten in bigger quantities (breakfast cereal, pasta, rice, and yogurt spring to mind), so don’t become too concerned about portion sizes. As long as she has at least five “handfuls” of fruits and vegetables a day, and several servings of healthy carbohydrates and protein, you’re doing well.
Q: How can I encourage my child to eat a varied diet?
A: The key is to sit down as a family as often as possible and eat a varied diet together. If everyone is eating what’s offered, your child is more likely to do so, too.

Furthermore, it’s important to continue to offer new foods over and over again, until they become familiar. Mix new foods with old favorites—try adding broccoli florets to macaroni and cheese, or new vegetables such as snow peas and corn to stir-fries.

If he rejects foods continually, try different recipes to make the foods more appealing. Adding new foods to old favorites is a good trick; try adding mushrooms or sweet peppers to homemade pizza. Hiding food may seem like an odd option, but it can get little ones accustomed to unfamiliar flavors and textures. Children love my Hidden vegetable tomato sauce, and have no idea they’re eating vegetables!

Sitting at the table

It’s important to include your little one in family meals. She may be able to sit on a family chair with a booster seat, although it will probably take a few weeks to encourage her to stay put! Otherwise, many high chairs have removable trays so they can be pushed up to the table.

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