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Your Question Answered: Toddler Nutrition

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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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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