You're Probably Overfeeding Your Toddler

This Just In 19

toddler eatingWhat my son eats or doesn't eat is a constant worry in my house. He's a very picky eater. A drinker, yes indeed. Hopefully that doesn't translate to when he's older and a big drinker means something not as adorable as a kid who loves his milky. And yes, I know drinking too much milk isn't a good idea either.

My daughter, his twin sister, can eat and eat and eat and sometimes she eats everything on her plate then starts working on what her brother hasn't eaten. Unless it's fish. She doesn't like fish, and my son will eat all of his fish and all of hers. But he can't eat fish every day. Even though I tried it once for a week and, by the end, realized he didn't like it so much anymore.

It seems though that maybe, just maybe, we are overfeeding our kids. Big surprise, right. We are a nation of super-sizing. Maybe our warped minds are just trying to get too much food down our kids' throats and we need to do some portion control. Yes, that's exactly it. 

Our toddlers and preschoolers still have tiny little bellies. Their stomach is about the same size as their clenched fist. Tiny! So let's take a look at these guidelines given to us by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ... that I paraphrased.

-- They say to start with a small serving size, which means not adult size portions, tiny little kid fist portions. Start small and let the child ask for more if still hungry. If you have a picky eater, the words "more please" might make you as happy as "I love you."

-- For each food item served, they suggest giving a tablespoon per year of age of each food. So if your kid is 3, give him 3 tablespoons of fish, 3 tablespoons of broccoli, and 3 tablespoons of cheese. (I can't believe this is enough, but it's what they are saying! Plus, they say start small and then give more as wanted so that seems about right. This IS about healthy eating habits.)

-- If your kid says she's full or starts picking apart the broccoli and throwing it you, it's time to remove the food. All done here! We need to respect that even if they ate two bites.

-- The "clean plate club" is for losers. Well, if your kid just gets in that "club" because she likes to eat, then great. If not, then no worries and no forcing.

I sure feel better about my picky eater now. He's gaining weight appropriately, going potty and all that, and is a happy kid, so I should have trusted my instincts. But when you grow up with an Italian family, eating a lot is the norm. And worrying about your kid eating when you're a parent comes with the honor.

Now that you've read this, do you think you were overfeeding your kids? Does this make you feel better about a picky eater?


Image via chad_k/Flickr

nutrition, picky eaters, toddler meal

19 Comments

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irish... irishmama1007

No I don't worry about overfeeding my 5 & 2.5yr old. My boys are very active and are thin as rails. They eat when they are hungry and I have taught them to listen to their bodies. I told them that their belly will tell them when to stop eating. I also taught them to eat slowly to give their bodies time to recognize that they are full. Sometimes they will only eat a bite or 2 and some nights I wonder if they have holes in their feet.

schlis schlis

My daughter eats as much or as little as she wants. Always had. First with only breastmilk, then with tablefoods. Her weight has always been perfect as well. Why would you try to foce a kid to eat if they don't want to? Obviously that will lead to an overweight kid.

tyrel... tyrelsmom

My 7 year old eats like a grown man. And he's thin as a rail, lol. My 5 and 3 year olds eat a pile one day, and then the next they eat 2 bites and they're done. I think my 1 year old is having a growth spurt, the amount she'll pack away is astonishing sometimes, lol. I'm sure she'll end up going through a phase or two when she seems to be trying to subsist on nothing, lol. Whatever.



My SIL on the other hand, is always trying to force her kids to eat more. You'd think she'd learn from the fact both she and her DH are overweight. Her kids are peanuts now, but I'm sure that won't last :(. She ruins every family meal with her antics, too.

Scorp... Scorpiomom78

This actually made me feel better about all my kids eating habits! :) I have a 5 & 3 yr old and 19 month old twins and they all have their days where they are bottomless pits and then days where they just seem to munch here and there. And a couple of them are pretty picky but I definitely feel better after reading this. I have never tried to force them to eat but I have worried that they weren't eating enough. Not sure why thought bc they all have always been healthy weight for their ages.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

I wouldn't worry about it so long as you're respecting when they say they're done and not making them finish their food. And how much your toddler eats is going to vary. During a growth spurt, it will seem as though your child is a bottomless pit you just can't fill. Ditto if they're really active. Other times, a toddler might eat one or two bites and be done. So long as you're respecting their hungry/full cues, they'll learn to do so as well.

tuffy... tuffymama

My LO needs a lot of calories and protein because of his body type and activity level. My oldest ate ravenously because he is thin and has a really high metabolism. If you're feeding your kids Hamburger Helper and McNuggets all the time, they may be eating too many calories because the CALORIES aren't providing adequate NUTRITION. Organic, unprocessed, whole foods are more nutrient dense, so we feel less hungry and need to eat less.

the4m... the4mutts

I feed my kids much more than this suggestion. MUCH more. I do not have a "clean your plate" rule. My kids are very active, and I'm not going to offer them 3 tablespoons of food, just to stand there and refill it in 3 minutes.

My kids are all perfect weight for their heights, but underweight AND underheight for the national average. They're healthy for them and I'm not about to change my habits for no good reason.

nonmember avatar IamwhoIam

I'd rather give my 1 year old son too much food and he wastes it after getting full than have him hungry an hour later because he doesn't get enough. He eats what he needs and knows to stop when he is full. Actually he starts throwing food on the floor to indicate he is done.

nonmember avatar Shannon

I start with a small amount of 1 or 2 foods mainly because my 20 month old son will jam it all in his mouth at once if he can (like a chipmunk). His twin sister daintily picks at her food. They get a fruit at every meal and veggies twice a day. They aren't allowed juice and I rarely offer them anything sweeter than graham crackers. They are both tall in comparison to their body weight. I know they are done because they start throwing food on the floor or just pushing it around their trays.

momav... momavanessa

I know I don't over feed my kids. They eat when they are hungry and they are both healthy!

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