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Choosy Eating: Just Relax, It's Probably Normal!

What's your greatest worry about your toddler's eating?  Not trying new foods?  Only wanting to eat certain foods over and over again (the "food jag")?  Refusing to eat entire groups of foods such as vegetables? 

All of these behaviors by your toddler are very common and normal (although EXTREMELY frustrating!)  Toddlers are beginning to show their independence and one way that they do this is by deciding what and when they will eat.

Parents worry so much about what their children will eat because they want them to grow up healthy and they think their kids will never learn how to eat certain foods if they don't begin early.  Also, parents may think they are bad parents if they can't get their kids to do something as seemingly simple as eating a balanced diet. 

Here's what we know from research about children's eating habits - Children are born knowing when they are hungry, when they are full and when it is time to stop eating, and when to make up for not eating much at one meal by eating more at the next. 

Research also shows that as long as parents allow children to choose from a variety of nutritious foods, kids can be trusted to decide how much of these foods to eat.  Also, studies have shown that even if children insist on eating their favorite foods for days in a row, they will eventually get tired of the same thing and begin eating something else. 

Another important research finding is that almost all young children turn down new foods at first.  Not until kids are exposed to and taste -  or watch someone else taste and enjoy - a new food as many as 10-15 times will a child begin to like the food themselves.  So parents, eat that broccoli!

Here are some do's and don'ts regarding toddler's eating habits:
     Don't use other foods as rewards.  If you say, "Eat your carrots and you can have some cake," you are teaching that carrots aren't desirable.
     Don't force kids to eat.  If you do, children stop hearing their own inner voices that tell them they are full, and that can lead to overeating and obesity.
     Don't make special meals.  Just make sure there is always somethng at meals that a child will eat (such as bread or milk) so they won't go hungry.
     Don't let children nibble throughout the day (also called grazing).  Provide food choices only at meals and snacks that are at the same times each day.
     Do provide a variety of healthy foods.
     Do give small portions and let children ask for more.  An easy guide for serving sizes is a tablespoon (about the size of a 9 volt battery) of each type of food for each year of a child's age. 
     Do provide healthy snacks between meals.  Kids' stomachs are small, but they use up a lot of energy.  Toddlers should be offered the opportunity to each every 2 - 3 hours.
     Do offer new foods ofen.
     Do model healthy eating habits.  Children are more likely to try food that they see others eating and enjoying.
     Do make mealtimes enjoyable.  Let children help with meal prep, make the meal a social time, and take away distractions such as TV.
     DO RELAX!  A parent's job is to provide nutritious foods.  A child's job is to decide how much and whether or not to eat. 
     Do check out this website: for a fun way to see how much and what kinds of food you should be offering to your child.