Nutritional Guidelines for Toddlers


Nor should the initial rejection of a food be interpreted as a fixed and true dislike of it. Only after several exposures will he learn the food is safe to eat. After several occasions of tasting the food with no negative side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, he learns the food is okay. Even one experience of lousy gastrointestinal consequences, however, can cause a long-term rejection of a food.


Knowing this, the most successful tactic is to offer a couple opportunities a week to try a new food. Don't coerce your child to eat it, but make clear that you expect him to taste it. Always allow him to spit it out if he wants. It is important to establish a policy of at least tasting a new food in late infancy, before the strong sense of autonomy and independence takes hold. Never force a child to eat, though. That approach, sometimes successful in the short-term, will backfire later on.

Equally as important as offering the new food often is the atmosphere in which it is offered. Certain commonly accepted feeding practices have unintended effects on a toddler's food preferences. For example, dessert (usually sweet) comes at the end of a meal and is often used as a reward for "eating your vegetables," or is withheld as a punishment for not eating them. This has the effect of making the restricted food (in this case, dessert) more highly desired -- they want what they can't have. According to Dr. Leann Birch, this strategy reduces a child's preference for the food he is forced to eat -- all too often, the nutritious ones.

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