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How Much and What Should Your Toddler Eat?

28 September 2010 15 Comments

By Christine Lee-McNaughton

As parents, we are often concerned with whether or not our children are eating enough. We sometimes fret over whether or not they are eating what they need to get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need to be healthy.

I know that when I was nursing Little One, I worried whether she was getting enough milk. She was. I was just a little paranoid. The nurses in the NICU always told me that she would consume as much as she needed. They were right. Although, they had to supplement her breast milk with formula for a while because she wasn’t gaining weight and keeping the pounds (okay, OUNCES!) on, I slowly started to worry a little less.

Then she started eating solids.

How much rice cereal does a baby need when just starting on solids? How many ounces of milk does a baby need for the day if they’re on solids too? Is she getting enough of everything?

Of course, she was and I became less and less worried when I realized just how voracious my daughter’s appetite was (and still is). Now that she is eating all the same foods we are eating, there’s no stopping her. How she eats (and eats, and EATS!) is beyond me. She is the tiniest thing I’ve ever seen, yet she appears to have a bottomless pit for a stomach. I’ve asked Little One’s medical team (nurse, Neonatologist, Pediatrician, dietitian, etc) and they’ve all said that she’s fine. She eats a well balanced meal and has a healthy appetite. She gets all her fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, meat, and drinks milk and water (and sometimes watered down juice) throughout the day.

The kid loves tofu, chickpeas, spinach, seaweed, lasagna, miso soup, and pretty much everything else. This said, I’ve been told by other Mommy friends that this may soon change. Apparently, toddlers sometimes stop eating as much and even occasionally drop a meal. Little One’s pediatrician even said that should this happen, I shouldn’t be too alarmed. Of course, always consult your child’s doctor if any change or concern arises.

A friend of mine said, “My son had a yogurt and a bowl of blueberries yesterday. Oh, and maybe a bowl of Cheerios!” I gasped when I heard that. I’m used to Little One eating a hearty breakfast, a large lunch, an equally filling supper, and snacks in between (the kid is constantly eating).

My friend’s son wasn’t the only one who had slowed down on his food consumption. Another friend told me that her daughter just started eating meat again. Granted, it was only chicken that she would eat, but it was a start. One chicken strip and two fries.

Articles like Feeding Your Toddler, Feeding Your 1 – 2 Year Old, and Healthy Foods for Growing Children: Feeding Your Toddler have been helpful for me. After hearing stories from other moms, and the great advice and tips from Little One’s medical team, I no longer worry whether or not she is getting enough nutrients. She eats a lot and she eats a balanced diet. I also found that offering my toddler a variety of foods with lots of colours have helped keep her interested in her food. I encourage Little One to “eat a rainbow” every meal. She just loves it! She loves the vibrant reds (strawberries, tomatoes, cherries), greens (broccoli, spinach, cucumber, green pepper), oranges (squash, oranges, cantaloupe, carrots) and so on. It’s so nice to see her enjoying her food and hear her say, “Mmmmm! Tasty!” as she munches on her VEGGIES!!! The ESL student who is staying with us said he cannot believe a toddler would eat eggplant and zucchini…and love it!

If you are looking for a great way to encourage your kids to “eat a rainbow”, Today I Ate a Rainbow fantastic. It is a tool for parents and caregivers to raise healthy kids. The fun chart lets kids keep track of what produce they have eaten.

If you’re just starting your little one on solids, making your own homemade baby food is a great way of ensuring that your child is eating healthy, natural, delicious, fresh food. Cooking and pureeing veggies is simple and fast. If you have some good food storage containers like Wean Green Glass Baby Food Containers, you can keep portion-sized batches of baby food on hand for when you’re ready to feed your wee one. If  your child is no longer eating pureed baby food, the containers are perfect for putting snacks in and tossing them in your food bag to have on hand when you’re out and about with baby/toddler.

The one thing Little One’s pediatrician advised me on was not to give her too much milk. Little One drank four 8 oz sippy cups of milk a day AND had cheese and yogurt (plus all the other food groups). Her doctor also said that at her age, Little One should not exceed 16 to 24 ounces of milk, as that could lead to iron deficiency anemia.

From Christine: “I am not and do not claim to be a health or medical expert. The resources and information in this article have been passed on to me by my 22 month old daughter’s medical team”

Christine is a blogger and member of the BornFree Mom Panel.

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  • Kristi Kocherkewych said:

    My son is only 10 months old, breastfed and also fed homemade baby food but I’m always wondering if he’s eating enough!! I mean, he loves fruit and even the veggies but some meals he is slow at eating his veggies (sometimes they are mixed with cereal) but if you switch to fruit he’ll gobble it up OR if you put some Cheerios on his highchair tray he will eat every single one up and look at you for more!! I can only imagine what he’ll be like this time next year!!! I love all the articles and blogs you post as it gives me some “food for thought”!!

  • Valerie said:

    I am nursing my 1 month old. My 2.5 year old goes through days where she refuses to eat. She likes potatoes though! She started eating chicken again. Other than that, she doesn’t eat much anymore. I just offer her what I can. If she eats, she eats. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t.

    Christine sent me!

  • John said:

    Our daughter’s pediatrician told us we can put extra butter on our daughter’s bread or give her creamy yogurt like Petit Danone.

    I follow BornFreeCanada. I have to. My wife is Christine. I’d be in trouble if I didn’t!

  • Sarah said:

    Some days i worry if my daughter is eating enough cause sometimes she will just pick at her plate but she definitly loves snacks and has her fave foods which are healthy ones so i guess i shouldnt worry too much lol she could eat yogurt and fruit all day if we let her lol

    (stephanie sent me)

  • Wen said:

    Thanks for the great article, Christine! I am constantly thinking about what my little boo eats (or doesn’t eat). Since she has started daycare I’ve been reassured that I am in fact packing healthy foods for her and that she has a varied diet. These are things us first time moms are always worried about. It is nice to have others agree with what you are doing for your precious little one.
    My boo is 13 mos old now and only has 2 bottom teeth. I was hesistant at first to introduce chunks of meat and veggies to her worrying about her chocking on the foods but in reality those little gums of theirs are able to mash up a lot more than I ever thought possible!

  • Diane said:

    my little boy is a super fussy eater & eats tiny pirtions too, but weighs a whopping 27 lbs somehow. Id love to win a prize, Christine sent me. :)

  • Michelle Proulx said:

    I have a 3.5 year old daughter that only weighs 26 Lbs and is only 3 feet tall…we had been to pediatritians for almost 2 years before they told us that she is just going to be a small child..and that despite all the tests that had preformed on her she was NORMAL!! Finally it only took countless trips to Sudbury every 2-3 weeks for almost 2 years to find out that my daughter ( whom I had said all along was fine) was medically “normal”…the thing that sparked the many trips to Sudbury was that she was Lactose intollerant was was not eatting enough dairy ( in the doctor’s view)…there is nothing more unsettling then listening to a pediatriton tell you “that there is something wrong with your child”
    My daughter is still lactose intollerant but is willing to eat almost anything..she just loves food!!

    Thanks Christine for all your blogs!!

  • B's Mom said:

    Oh my goodness I worry about this all the time. My son is only 9 months old, but I always think I’m not feeding him enough…even though he eats three meals a day plus formula in between. I realized I shouldn’t be so paranoid when I overfed him one evening and he ended up vomiting all the solids I had just fed him. Whoops! Bad parenting moment hmm…1001?

  • Dina said:

    Great article Christine.
    My son doesn’t eat anymore. He will go a whole weekend with just peanut butter and carrots-plus a few cheerios and bread. I don’t worry about it anymore. You can’t worry about every little thing.
    I replaced some of the milk both kids drink with almond milk. I also give soy but only in small doses due to hormones (or so i’ve heard)
    We obviously have no allergies here. Not sure what i’d do if we had that to deal with!

  • Evelyn said:

    My three granddaughters are all almost two years old and they all have very big appetites. It’s the three year old grandson that doesn’t eat as much as his sisters and cousin. He snacks/pecks throughout the day. He seems to be fine though! As long as the kids are healthy, maybe we should not worry so much about how much they eat.

    Christine sent me!

  • Jeanna said:

    Great article, C.! Since I come from a family of Italians, it’s usually not a problem. But a few of the kids have been picky eaters through their teen years then suddenly they discover food in college. They all made it through and I think LO will be cooking you all dinner soon. It’s great how you’ve exposed her to a world of healthy and nutritious food. It doesn’t hurt that you’re such a good cook.

  • Nimkee's Mum said:

    ~Great article C! I love John’s comment too….very funny….lol. I am sharing this on my fb so other Mommy friends can read it :O)

    Love & Nimkee-Blessings, Mxxoo

  • How Much Should My Baby Eat said:

    If your doctor recommends, feeding baby with artificial milk, you should think about the choices, which is really best for your baby. Continue with the same milk if a child is fed in maternity hospital in a bottle, and had no problems (allergies, etc.).

    If you need more information on Best Baby Formula, How Much Should A Newborn Eat, Formula Feeding, Bottle Feeding, Baby Milk, Baby Formula Brands visit How Much Formula To Feed Baby

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