Unless you’re blessed with a ravenous eater, with a healthy appetite and gorgeous little eyes that strain to see over the rim of the plate at what else you have in store today, chances are you’ve asked yourself – probably more than once – is my baby or toddler actually eating enough? When faced with fussy faces, food refusal and a floor full of tonight’s delicious dinner, it’s understandable to be concerned about what’s actually making it into your little one’s tummy. Here’s how to find peace of mind with what your kids are eating.
Measure no more
When it’s just milk feeds and cubes of puree on the menu, it’s easy to measure input against output and evaluate the appropriate quantities of your baby’s meals. As time goes on, it gets harder to see what’s actually going in – with snacking here and skipping dinner there, it turns into quite the guessing game! Instead, offer lots of healthy choices at all times – grains, vegetables, fruit, protein and dairy – and feel good knowing your child has access to a variety of good-for-her foods. Some days the bread will be the clear winner, other days the carrots, and that’s okay.
Don’t fight it
Try not to turn meal times into battles. It may be difficult, but aim to give fussy behaviour as little attention as possible. Make some ground rules about eating – this is what’s on your plate today, so just have a try then take it or leave it! – and resist the urge to prepare multiple meals to please everyone in the home. Stay matter-of-fact about food and you’ll hopefully create better eaters. And remember, if they are hungry they will eat!
Three big meals a day may not be the best way to go. Consider down-sizing the portions and offering lots of small meals and snacks throughout the day. Toddlers are often too busy to sit down and eat, but a plate left out for them to graze as they go, can be a smart way to fill their bellies. Good ideas for grazing foods include toast and sandwich soldiers, fruit and vegie sticks, dried fruits, pieces of cheese, strips of meat, pieces of omelette, pancakes and pikelets, mini muffins, wedges of frittata, crackers with avocado and pasta shapes.
Ask yourself these questions
Still not confident your child is eating enough? Answer these questions: Are you offering a good variety of healthy foods every day? Is he growing as he should? And is he generally happy, active and well? Your responses should give you a good indication of whether your child is meeting his nutritional needs and satisfying his appetite. If in doubt, talk to your GP.