Nutritional guidelines for toddlers

Initial rejection of a new food by your child shouldn't be interpreted as reflecting a fixed and persistent dislike of the food. He needs many more chances to give the food a try. Only after several exposures will he learn the food is safe to eat. When after several occasions of tasting the food in which it is not followed by something negative ... like nausea or vomiting, he learns the food is okay. However, even one experience of lousy gastrointestinal consequences can cause a long-term rejection of a food.

Knowing this, your most successful tactic for offering new foods would be a schedule that includes a couple of opportunities a week to sample the new food. Do not coerce your child to eat it, but set up the expectation you expect him to at least taste it. Always allow him to spit it out if he wants. The policy of at least tasting the new food is important to establish in late infancy before the strong sense of autonomy and independence of the toddler age takes hold. Although just being around the food does help, only tasting it leads to ultimate acceptance. Never force him to eat it though. That approach, although maybe successful in the present, will backfire in the long run.

Equally as important as offering the new food often, is the atmosphere under which it is offered. In our culture we have a few accepted feeding practices which have unintended effects on 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 when they aren't. This has the effect of making the restricted food (in this case, dessert) more highly desired. According to Dr. Leann Birch, the strategy of having a child eat a food to obtain a reward tends to reduce the child's liking far the food he has to eat to obtain the reward; The same thing occurs if he has to 'drink his milk' before be can watch TV, or eating his egg before going out to play. But, you really don't want your toddler eating dessert if he hasn't eaten his dinner. How do you deal with this? First of all, rethink what you're serving for dessert. For most people, sweets are palatable even when full. This may be why a non-hungry toddler is still willing to eat the bowl of ice cream when he's not hungry for dinner. Try making dessert a food you feel good about your toddler eating, irregardless of what he has or has not eaten ahead of time. The dessert should make a positive nutritional contribution to the meal. Instead of icecream, serve a pudding made with skim milk, like rice pudding. Serve fruit salad or a fruit and yogurt 'sundae' instead of pie If it's cookies, make them whole grain oatmeal. Allow them to eat dessert first if they want

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