Your Question Answered: Toddler Nutrition
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Question: My daughter is turning one and seems to eat A LOT! She’s very tall for her age and her weight is proportionate. But at what age do I worry about portion control? I try to balance her meals with all the food groups…a typical meal would be chicken, sliced cucumbers, a piece of whole wheat toast, some cheese, and some fruit. ~Julie Crispell, Montreal QC
Answer: I’m so glad you asked about portions. We Americans have lost sight of what an appropriate portion of just about anything looks like! It’s very important that we parents lay a healthful foundation for infants and children to help them meet their needs for growth and development while not promoting overeating that can contribute to overweight.
Though each child’s needs may differ, portions at age 1-2 are typically quite small. In all likelihood, your daughter’s increased appetite and consumption likely means she’s going through a growth spurt. You may find over the next year that her appetite will wax and wane and she’ll get more fussy and may eat less or refuse some foods she once loved. Because toddlers’ eating habits can be erratic–especially as they gain a sense of control over the world and want to exert their new found independence–our job as parents is to simply provide as many healthful foods as possible, and give small portions of different foods from the healthy food groups at each meal or snack. Breakfast may look like 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup strawberries, and 1 cup of whole milk; Lunch might be 1-1/2 ounces of grilled chicken, 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato, and 1/2 cup whole milk; dinner might be 1/2 cup macaroni, 1 slice of cheese, and 1/2 cup peas; and desserts/snacks may include 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 2 vanilla wafers.
It’s always a good idea to use small plates and bowls to serve food to your tots (and older kids alike), give less than you think they’ll eat,and let them to ask or signal you that they want more–and then you can give more. The best way to know your daughter is getting enough but not too much is to watch her growth and make sure she stays consistent on the growth charts at her annual check ups with her pediatrician. But keep doing what you’re doing–sounds like both of you are on the right track!
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