Most adults have forgotten what the recommended serving sizes are. Children have no idea how much a serving size is, they just eat as much as they want. Do you know how much children should be eating?
Let’s talk about preschoolers:
- At this stage their growth rate decreases, so along with that you can expect a decrease in appetite as well
- As they get older they become less interested in food and more interested in their surroundings. They are easily distracted and eating just isn’t as “interesting” or seemingly important to them.
- Preschoolers appetites are often times erratic and unpredictable
- Food jags are common. Likes and dislikes may change from day to day, so remember, “being branded as someone who doesn’t like broccoli often prevents them from trying it again later”
General guidelines for children ages 1-5 is one tablespoon of vegetable or fruit for each year of life, so a 2 yr old should have 2 tablespoons. That would be like 2 slices of apple or 2 baby carrots.
- If you are having a challenging meal time, consider offering a fun thing to do after the meal
- Allow them to be “finished” if they eat just a portion of their meal and let them choose how much of which items
- Try not to have meals when your child is tired and ready for a nap. If they are, then let them eat as much as they want, take a nap and then offer their lunch when the wake up
- Just because you are really hungry doesn’t mean they are
- You can ALWAYS give them more, keep your portions small and see what they eat and want more of. You will have less food waste and be less likely to get in the habit of asking them to “clean their plate”
- If your child is picky about foods touching or mixing go ahead and use divided plates or individual bowls. The important thing is that they eat, not how it’s served
- Try and eat even smaller meals a little more frequently. 6-7 times a day for a 2-3 year old is not uncommon, depending on their schedule. Keep in mind it’s the total amount of food in a day or a few days that matter, not a single meal or two
- On the flip side….it’s ok to limit snacks so that your child is more hungry at meal time. Some kids become masterful at snacking and are perfectly happy to skip meals all together!
- As long as they are keeping a steady incline on the growth chart, regardless of how steep, then try not to worry
- Avoid offering food as a bribe. You don’t want your kids to view food as a way to get what they want, including refusing to eat what is healthier without a reward of something sugary
- Kids will eat when they are hungry, avoid catering to their every whim and only offering their favorite foods. It’s important they begin to eat what is available or being offered or else they can politely decline. If you don’t establish good boundaries now, your child will become deficient in vital vitamins and minerals and limit their activities. (Camps won’t accommodate a child who only eats chicken nuggets. A family celebration dinner at a nice restaurant who doesn’t serve nuggets makes for a stressful meal)
It isn’t easy keeping kids happy and fed. I hope this information and tips help you to focus on the fun instead of the fight. CHEERS to your next meal!