Slower growth can also mean a drop in appetite, while your toddler is also likely pickier, and often more distracted than before. Put this all together and it means toddlers' appetites can be a lot more volatile than you would hope. Fortunately, this is a temporary period that they'll grow out of.
Meanwhile, by this point (and sometimes much earlier), your child will be comfortable using a spoon and fork and drinking from an open cup (never mind the odd spill here and there).
At this age, eating has become secondary to social, language and cognitive growth. However, the huge leap in language especially opens up a world of opportunity for you, both to talk about the food you eat and why as well as to use mealtimes as an opportunity to communicate.
Energy and Nutrient Requirements
By 2 years of age, your child will have more or less established regular eating habits and shown a preference for certain foods over others.
Energy requirements continue to grow compared to those of 1 year olds. Macronutrient distribution stays roughly the same, just in higher quantities. Micronutrient requirements are also slightly higher but as long as your child is getting a balanced diet which includes all food groups, micronutrient deficiencies will be very rare.
|Food Group||Daily Servings|
|Protein foods||2 oz|
|Fats and oils||3 tsp|
You probably feel like your child is very grown-up by now – they can likely tell you when they are hungry and if they like something or not which is a huge development vs. one year ago. But their stomach is still small and appetite irregular.
For this reason, small regular meals (or meals + snacks) about 4-6 times a day is still so important to keep them well-fed and happy.
Healthy Eating Practices
- Include at last one leafy green vegetable or yellow vegetable with lunch and dinner
- Include at least one vitamin C-rich food in one of the daily snacks
- Choose whole-grains over white alternatives
- Avoid fruit juices which can be high in sugar
- Avoid making a habit of serving cakes, cookies, hotdogs, pizza, burgers etc
Simple, healthy snack choices:
- Sliced fruit or vegetables
- Fruit or vegetable smoothies
- Homemade fruit or vegetable bars
- Hummus or bean dips with whole-grain crackers
- Nut butter on whole-grain crackers
- Milk or yogurt
Mealtime Best Practices
Every child is unique, so it's up to you to know what your child likes and dislikes and when they are more likely to eat. While forcing them to eat will affect your child's sense of self-moderation, you can still organize mealtimes in a way that encourages them to eat.
This might mean adjusting your routine if your child is regularly refusing food at lunchtime for example, but hungry an hour later. A few other things you can do to help include:
- Make sure your child is well-rested – tired children don't tend to eat well
- Make them comfortable – check your child's feet are supported to minimize fidgeting, with the tray or table at chest height and food comfortably within reach
- Presentation matters – whether it means separating different kinds of foods, arranging them in a smiley face, or taking out the broken crackers
- Offer choices – let your child choose between different healthy foods before you prepare them, or better yet, let them help you prepare their own food
- Choose water instead of sugary drinks
- Allow your child to choose between healthy foods
- Be a role model with your food choices
- Eat the same meals and at the same time as your child
- Go food shopping together
- Prepare food together
- Encourage physical activity
- Use food as a reward
- Force your child to finish their food
- Put the tv on for mealtimes
- Lucas BL, Feucht SA. Nutrition in Childhood. In: Mahan LK, Escott-Stump, S. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. International Edition, 12e. 2008. pg. 222-245.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board (2002) Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrates, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (macronutrients). Washington, DC. National Academies Press.
- USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). www.choosemyplate.gov