Kids Love Dr. Barton

Toddler Diet

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 12/29/2008

The New Year is upon us.  How many of you have resolutions?  How many of your resolutions revolve around food?  Following this line of thought reminded me about kids and food.  It seems that so many of the visits in my office have something to do with food.  How much formula should a newborn get?  When should I introduce real food to my infant?  How much is too much?  Is my child overweight?
One of the more frustrating times for parents when it comes to food is the toddler years. Many believe that overweight starts in the toddler years.  That’s not what parents usually tell me, though.  Usually I hear, “My child won’t eat anything!” “I’m afraid he’s not getting enough to eat!”  I won’t go into the psychology behind why we worry that our kids don’t eat enough.  In this society that is so overweight, I would think that would never be a question, but it is.

The toddler years are very active years.  They are also years during which, ordinarily, there is very little weight gain.  Your infant put on 10-15 pounds during the first year of life.  Your toddler will likely only put on 20 pounds over the next four years.  You can see that the rate of weight gain slows to about half.  Toddlers don’t need that many calories to support that growth.  In other words, it’s normal for children between the ages of one and five to barely eat at all most days.

So what does a concerned parent do?  First, on the days that your toddler doesn’t want to eat, don’t worry about it (unless he or she looks ill).  Tell Grandmom that Johnny doesn’t HAVE to eat if he’s not hungry.  Don’t go into the pantry looking for something he’ll eat.  He’ll wait until you pull out that something he really likes.  Then he’ll eat it, hungry or not.  Take a guess when food preferences start!  Make sure your toddler gets three to four glasses of milk daily.  Offer lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains (you know, the stuff you should be eating!).  Then let her appetite take over.

Remember, if you lived in Somalia, your child would eat whatever food you offered her.  Kids won’t starve themselves just because you only offer healthy choices.



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