Can your toddler be hungry just after a big meal? Why won’t they drink with their meal? Does tiredness affect appetite? What’s a healthy food routine? Toddlebox health and nutrition expert Annemarie Bennett answers all your healthy eating questions!
GET THE HEALTHY ROUTINE HABIT
Toddlers have smaller stomachs than adults, but need lots of nutrients from their food and drinks to grow and develop properly. To help make sure your toddler eats enough, get into a healthy routine of offering them three main meals and two-to-three snacks each day.
THE DOS AND DON’TS OF HEALTHY DRINKS!
Serve drinks in a lidless beaker. It’s easy for your toddler to drink too much if they have a bottle or are using a beaker with a lid. From age one, encourage your toddler to drink from a lidless beaker. It can take time for them to get used to using a beaker with no lid but keep trying! It’s very important that they learn the skill of drinking from a rim. If your toddler is not drinking from a lidless beaker, start by introducing a lidded beaker with a free-flow spout to help them to get used to faster-flowing liquids. Once they are used to this – usually within two weeks – remove the lid and teach them to drink from the rim of the beaker. Use Toddlebox’s Guide to Beakers & Healthy Drinks to help smooth the move from bottle to beaker!
Spread drinks evenly over the day. Offer about six beakers of 5oz (150mls) water, and two-to-three beakers of 5oz (150mls) milk throughout the day.
Get the timing right. When they are eating, wait until at least half of the meal is eaten before giving them a beaker of water or milk to go with the rest.
Don’t let them drink too much fluid. Drinking too much or drinking too close to meals and snacks will reduce the amount of food your toddler can eat. To help prevent dehydration and constipation, toddlers should drink around 1200-1500mls each day. Divide this between water and milk: about six beakers of 5oz (150mls) water and about two-three beakers of 5oz (150mls) milk.
The half-hour rule! Avoid offering drinks for 30 minutes before the next meal or snack. Toddlers can feel too full to eat if they drink a lot of milk or water shortly before a meal.
THE DOS AND DON’TS OF HEALTHY EATING!
Include them. Set appropriate expectations for your toddler’s behaviour at meals and snacks. When your toddler knows what is expected from them at mealtimes, they can relax. Encourage behaviour that makes your toddler feel fully included in the meal. Perhaps you could ask them to help prepare something simple, or serve themselves, or help tidy up afterwards? None of these behaviours are about eating. They encourage toddlers to enjoy taking part in mealtimes. If you gently encourage good eating habits at the table, your toddler should eat enough by themselves without you needing to worry. Remember to encourage these behaviours consistently and to set a good eating example yourself. Making Mealtimes Matter and Why Mealtimes Rule have simple suggestions to make mealtime better for everyone.
Provide similar and suitable foods for everyone. As much as possible, the foods on your toddler’s plate should match the foods on your plate. Set aside a portion of your toddler’s meal before adding seasonings like salt and stock cubes to your cooking. Cut their food into smaller pieces to help them to feed themselves. (A Toddler at the Table has advice on how to set good table habits). If the whole family eats the same meal, then cooking is less stressful and it’s easier to set a good example. And that makes mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone!
Get into good habits. Toddlers should have a regular routine of three main meals and two-to-three snacks at similar times each day. This helps to set your toddler up to feel hungry in time for planned meals and snacks. Because this means eating about every two hours, they should not be hungry in-between.
Put them under pressure to eat. If a toddler feels pressured to eat at mealtimes, they can become nervous close to meals. If your toddler is feeling nervous, they can lose their appetite. Remember that pressure to eat does not have to be obvious and heavy-handed. Even mild pressure or unnecessary prompting and reminders to eat can be stressful for toddlers, and should be avoided.
No grazing between meals! Setting regular eating times reduces grazing between meals. If your toddler asks for food outside of planned meals and snacks, offer a small piece of fruit. Do not offer any other options. If they refuse the fruit, they are probably bored, not hungry. In this case, give them an activity to do and remind them that their next meal or snack is not far off.