Offer Healthy Choices

The most important thing to remember when considering nutrition for your child is that children eat food not calories. Many parents make their job harder than it should be by forcing their child to eat either the “right” foods or the “right” amount. A parent’s job is simply to provide appropriate balanced nutrition. Healthy children eat when they are hungry and they will usually eat the right amounts for their nutritional needs.

My Child Won’t Eat 3 Vegetables a Day!

The requirements for your child are listed below in daily amounts.   Since no child eats healthy consistently day in and day out, remember that it is just a guide.  The good news is that our bodies are designed to accumulate nutrients over a span of one to two weeks not in just one day. This means that some days your child will eat a few servings of vegetables and other days more servings of vegetables. So don’t get focused on a daily amount your child HAS TO EAT but get a sense of what a balanced diet consists of so that you can offer appropriate amounts and healthy types of foods. Remember that there is not ONE particular vegetable or fruit that contains all the necessary nutrients for your child. So, varying the types of fruits or vegetables is the key to a balanced diet and good nutrition.

Picky Eaters

Most children at this age become very “picky.” The most important part of your job as a parent is to provide those foods that will help your child meet his required nutrients. Use his hunger as a motivator to eat healthy. Don’t start playing games by manipulating your child to eat everything on his plate and don’t allow him to manipulate you by not eating the foods you encourage him to eat. Your job is to offer the food, not push it. His job is to eat it when he is hungry. Don’t get into battles over food and don’t give in to your fear of hurting your child’s nutrition by making a second meal especially for your child. Over time, your child when hungry will eat the appropriate foods. Watch out for difficult times like in the car or while preparing dinner. Have a healthy backup or offer last night’s dinner again at those hungry times.

Daily Required Intake

    • Servings
    • Group
    • One Serving Size
    • 2-3
    • Whole Milk, Dairy
    • 4 oz cup, 1 slice of cheese
    • 2-4
    • Fruits and Vegetables
    • 2 Tablespoons
    • 4
    • Breads and Cereals
    • 2 Tablesp – 1/4 sliced bread
    • 2
    • Meat, fish, and eggs
    • 1 Tablespoon or 1/2 ounc
    • Nutrient         
    • Sources
    • Protein*
    • Meat, lentils, tofu, beans, legumes, eggs, dairy, nuts and peanut butter
    • Iron
    • Meats, legumes, fortified breads and cereals.
    • Calcium
    • Dairy, broccoli, dark-green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, lentils, fish
    • Vitamin A
    • Apricots, cantaloupe, mango, peaches, plums, prunes, milk, eggs
    • Vitamin C
    • Grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe and other melons, strawberries
    • Folic Acid
    • Grains, breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables
    • Zinc
    • Grains and meats

*Protein sources such as peanuts or tree nuts are not safe for the child under 4 years old because of choking risks. In December 2010 new guidelines from the allergists were given which gave recommendations concerning the timing of introduction of allergenic foods to children. Based on these guidelines, they suggest that the introduction of solid foods should not be delayed beyond 4 to 6 months of age. Potentially allergenic foods may be introduced at this time as well. Their rationale was that was insufficient evidence for delaying introduction of solid foods, including potentially allergenic foods, beyond 4 to 6 months of age, even in infants at risk of developing allergic disease. So we have changed our recommendations to allow all foods including those containing nuts and peanuts to be introduced slowly.

The average toddler usually requires 40 calories a day per inch of height. This is about 1000-1300 calories per day. Certain vitamins and minerals are required for healthy growth. The child at this age requires about 16 grams of protein a day. One cup of whole milk provides 8 grams.