Nutritional guidelines for toddlers

How to get them to eat it:

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. They only accept a few foods. Why is it that your toddler will eat only macaroni and cheese but a two-year-old in Mexico will accept a tortilla wrapped around beans? Obviously children are capable of learning to like and accept a wide variety of foods. But why won't your toddler? Rest assured, that Mexican child would probably find the idea of macaroni and cheese disgusting.

Kids learn to accept foods in a social and cultural context. Impacting that acceptance are some inherent characteristics of toddlers.

Research has shown that a couple of factors are primary determinants of a child's preference for food. Not surprisingly, one is an unlearned liking for sweet taste. The second determinant is familiarity. Familiarity is unrelated to any characteristic about that food, such as smell or taste or texture. Toddlers simply prefer the foods that are familiar to them, thus the beans and tortillas in Mexico, and the Mac and Cheese in the U.S. This characteristic has earned themselves the label neophobic. Neophobia is the fear of the new and unknown. For toddlers, that's a reluctance to try new foods.

Neophobia makes sense when viewed as a normal, adaptive response. Rather than reflecting a lack of cooperation, it may be a young organism's mechanism for avoiding unfamiliar, potentially toxic foods. A 'cave baby' may soon die if he is willing to try every berry he could get his hands on. Likewise, your child may refuse the food gifts of a stranger ... a healthy response!. Once you recognize food 'negativity' as an adaptive response you can take the necessary steps to get your toddler to accept new foods in spite of it. Increasing his variety of liked foods is your goal since a wider variety is more apt to ensure an adequate nutrient intake.

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