Are you constantly questioning yourself, "Is my 18-month-old eating enough or too much?" You are not alone. Many parents struggle with finding the perfect balance of food for their toddler. It can be a feeding frenzy trying to figure out if they are getting all the nutrients they need while also pleasing their picky palates (which seem to change daily).
Below we will discuss how much your toddler should eat at different meal times and some tips on making meal time less stressful.
An Appropriate Meal Size
First off, it is important to understand that portion sizes for toddlers are smaller than adults. Toddler serving sizes equate to around one-fourth of an adult's typical portion size (they may be small but don't underestimate them – toddlers have been known to pack away more food in one sitting than an NFL linebacker.)
A good rule of thumb is offering one tablespoon of each food group per year old your child is (for example, a two-year-old would receive two tablespoons each).
It's easy for children this age to become overwhelmed by big portions or too many choices and lose interest in their meals altogether. They often do better with smaller meals offered throughout the day instead of three large ones like adults tend towards.
Here's a breakdown of what an appropriate meal looks like:
|Food Group||Serving Size|
|Vegetables||¼ cup cooked/2 Tbsp raw|
|Dairy||½ cup milk/yogurt/cheese|
Keep in mind that these amounts vary depending on individual needs based on body weight so check with your pediatrician about specific recommendations for your child’s needs.
It's okay – encouraged, even! - to offer your toddler access to food throughout the day. With little stomachs and active minds, toddlers tend to get hungry every few hours between meals. But beware the snack trap: snacks should be small and nutritious (no candy bars here).
Here are some healthy options for you to try:
- Slice of cheese
- Fruit/veggie pouches
- Rice cake with hummus or nut butter
Avoid giving your child too many salty/sugary snacks which can lead to unhealthy eating habits as they grow.
Toddlers have tiny tummies so it is important that their fluid intake doesn't fill up space meant for nutrient-packed foods. Offer water instead of sugary drinks like juice unless occasional treatment is necessary (for example when constipated). Encourage sips during meals and changes in activity level but avoid forceful consumption before bed-time as this might cause more wet nights then nappies can handle.
Mind Their Appetite Signals
Some days your little one just won’t seem interested in chowing down (like why does everything suddenly taste gross today?!?), while other days it feels like you’re feeding a bottomless pit (how can such a tiny human eat an entire pizza themselves?!?) . This fluctuation is normal at 18 months – children’s appetites revolve around stages of growth spurts & development milestones meaning that what was top-of-their-list yesterday may not float their boat tomorrow! Having slow changing expectations, offering small portions of new items next or along side familiar loved bites can help support spicing things up on those fussy-eating-days.. Oftentimes our own hunger patterns becomes normalized, so only feed them when they display hunger signals such as putting things into their mouths or smacking lips together!
Serving sizes aren't the only factor to consider, pay attention to your toddler’s body language too! They may give signals of fullness by pushing food away or be distracted from eating completely. It is important to respect these non-verbal cues and avoid forcing them into unhealthy patterns - bedtime struggles versus peaceful evening tuck-ins anyone?
Meal Time Tips
Every child is unique in their preferences with meal times – some enjoy being served while others like helping you prepare meals (ensuring there's a quick clean-up-team on hand should this transpire) . Experimenting with different foods/amounts can help find what works best for everyone involved. Here are some tips on how to make feeding time easier:
- Keep Meal Distractions at Bay: Toddlers tend to have short attention spans, so minimizing distractions during meal time can encourage eating & focus on developing healthy habits through attentiveness.
- Encourage Self-Serve Buffet Style Meals Sometimes: Putting out appropriately cut finger-food pieces in stead-bowl-and-pot style spread means each kiddo can personalise for themselves which makes fussy humans more amenable!
- Portion Food Before Serving: Planning servings ahead of when offering means less extra temptation wherein they eat after they display hunger signs/selling those last few bites will mean spending less time being an unpaid-car-salesman and fewer plates scraped into the trash-can sitting beside high-chair.
- Be Consistent Across Caretakers/Different Settings: Repeating same theme regarding meals (meal-times happen at 'x-time'/limit number snacks given/have water as standard drink) across settings limits confusion and boundary testing between all adults who spend often busy/interrupted moments coordinating sweet little darlings.
There you have it! No need to obsess over every morsel that goes into your 18-month-old’s belly; it needs no stress added thankfully enough as there'll plenty else that'll keep us pre-occupied over the next few years as we support our little ones in their journey into adulthood. Keeping a balance between offering healthy foods but not empty-stomaching them through pressure-ing beyond hunger-cues can help ensure that meal times will be less frenzied and more enjoyable for everyone around!