Do you ever watch your toddler or preschooler pick at his food, or on the contrary, practically swallow the plate?? Do you wonder how your child only eats 3-5 bites of food at mealtime and still manages to play for hours on end? Or do you watch your child eat like a bottomless pit, scarfing down all of the food you own, wondering what on earth you are going to serve him next? Most parents wonder how much their child is supposed to eat and whether their kid falls in line. We are here to help you with portion sizes for kids!
As with everything frustrating in life, there are no fixed rules, only loose guidelines! According to www.healthychildren.org powered by the AAP:
“Your job as a parent is to offer foods with nutritional value in a calm environment and to have regular times for eating. Your child’s job is to decide whether he or she is hungry and how much food to eat when it’s offered.”
Portion Size Recommendations for Children 1-3 Years Old:
- 2 tablespoons meat or beans
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetables
- 1-2 tablespoons fruit
- ¼ slice of bread or whole grain
- Milk or water to drink
*Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Is My Kid Eating Too Little?
Many parents worry their child is not eating enough. If you fall into this category, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my kid eat at least 1 good meal per day? Try not to look at what your child eats in just 1 sitting, but rather in a 24 hour period, or even over a few days. It is common for young kids to eat only 1 good meal per day. For example, your child may eat a good breakfast and have a really light lunch and/or dinner. This is actually more common than you might think, and generally speaking, it is ok for most kids. If you have any concerns, talk to your pediatrician.
- Does my kid have 1 good eating day out of 3 days? For example, did your child eat well on Monday, but barely ate much of anything on Tuesday or Wednesday? This happens frequently with young kids. Many young children don’t eat full servings at every meal; their stomachs don’t require them to! If you have any concerns, talk to your pediatrician and see what he/she recommends.
Is My Kid Eating Too Much?
Sometimes kids are simply on a growth spurt. They are so hungry, they want to eat everything in sight! If your child is NOT on a growth spurt and you fear that they may be eating too much all the time, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I feeding my kids healthy, whole foods mostly prepared at home? Make sure the foods you’re offering your child are clean, homecooked foods as opposed to frozen or pre-packaged foods such as boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen chicken nuggets, or other foods that come in a package. If your child is indulging on things like tomatoes, eggs, and blueberries, for example, that’s much better than overindulging on processed foods. If you have any serious concerns, talk to your pediatrician and see what he/she recommends.
- Is my child getting enough protein at mealtime? Proteins help us feel full and satisfied. Is your child getting ample meat, beans, or eggs at mealtime? If not, they can be burning calories quickly from carbs, fruits and vegetables, and this can leave them feeling hungry and depleted quickly, requiring her to want to eat all the time.
In summary, it can be a little frustrating that there are no hard and fast rules or clear answers for parents on how much their child should be eating. How much is too much, and how much is too little? The top rated, top selling What a Good Eater! cookbook provides sample food schedules and portion size examples by age. What is most important is that your child is healthy, growing well, and getting the nutrition he/she needs. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician, and remember the wise words written in blue italics above!
What a Good Eater Cookbook:
Did you find these tips helpful? For more tips, sample meal schedules by age, healthy snack ideas, and family friendly recipes, check out our cookbook What a Good Eater! for baby & toddler recipes with healthy herbs and spices to add flavor and broaden your baby’s palette, now available on Amazon! If you enjoyed this post, sign up to receive our newsletter for other great ideas on feeding your baby, toddler, and family.
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