Food Fixes 5-6
My 3-1/2-year-old will not touch any meat products except chicken and hot dogs. My doctor's not concerned but it drives me crazy. I've even tried to sneak meat into her meals, like putting a little hamburger in spaghetti sauce, but she's never fooled.
Toddlers can be very picky about a lot of different things -- not just food. "Food becomes a battleground because parents often have preconceived ideas about what kinds of foods toddlers should be eating," explains Stephen Daniels, MD, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on nutrition.
Take a step back; as long as your child is continuing to grow and develop normally, she's fine. In fact, she's getting protein from chicken and hot dogs, though you might want to go easy on the hot dogs or offer substitutes that are lower in fat and nitrates, such as turkey dogs or soy dogs.
If you're worried, you can try to boost the amount of protein in her diet with peanut butter and different types of beans. But whatever you do, don't make a fuss or your child will dig in her heels. And while it's perfectly fine to try stealth-feeding tactics like putting hamburger in spaghetti sauce, that approach can backfire. You could end up with egg on your face -- and spaghetti sauce on the wall.
My 3-year-old loves to snack -- during the day, I give her fruit, crackers, peanut butter, and cheese -- but she hates to sit and eat meals. We give her tiny portions, but all she does is play with her food.
Because toddlers have small appetites (and tummies), snacks have an important place in a child's day. "A snack between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner is 100 percent appropriate," says Bauer.
But if your child snacks around the clock, he won't be hungry at mealtime. And while a child who eats a lot of healthy snacks will be just as well off nutritionally as the child who eats well at mealtime, you want to teach your child to develop good eating habits and to appreciate the pleasures of a family meal.
To keep snacks from gobbling up your child's appetite for dinner, pay attention not only to frequency but to serving sizes. Bauer suggests offering four crackers with peanut butter or string cheese and a bunch of grapes or two large handfuls of multigrain Cheerios. "If she claims she's hungry an hour after that snack is over, offer only cut-up vegetables. Then you'll find out who's really hungry -- and who's just eating out of habit," she adds.