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What to feed my kid has become much more of a focus in my life than I care to admit. As a nutritionist, I am constantly worrying about little M eating healthy toddler meals with enough healthy fats, proteins, macronutrients and greens, but hovering over her every bite wasn’t doing either of us any favors.
To get a real sense of how well your toddler is eating, look at what they eat over a two week period, instead of just day to day.
What I’ve learned is that to really get a sense of how “well” a toddler is eating (in terms of fueling their bodies with healthy foods and building blocks for growth), you can’t look at just one day. Toddlers’ appetites naturally ebb and flow from day to day, and on a “bad” eating day, when they may just not be as hungry as normal, it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a short order cook and whipping up crowd-pleasing backup meals just to get our kids to eat.
The problems with this approach are many and varied, but most notably, it sets a precedent that our kids get to call the shots (dangerous) and that it’s more important for them to eat something than something healthy (false). When we set aside the rejected healthy meal of salmon and broccoli and run to the kitchen to make some mac and cheese that we know they’ll eat, we aren’t honoring their own sense of what their bodies need in the moment and we show them that all they have to do is push away their plate of healthy food to get mom to make them something “fun.” This is a recipe for entrenching picky eating.