Dining Dramas: Toddler Feeding Problems, Solved

"My toddler's appetite is either ravenous or nonexistent."

On some days, 2-year-old Addie Picker packs in the calories; the next, she barely eats a thing. "She'll refuse one meal, then eat a lot at the next," says her mom, Lynn, of San Diego.

Why she does it: There's a good reason why kids this age don't eat much: They don't have to. Growth slows during the toddler years, and so do calorie needs. Compared with an infant's development, a toddler's growth is at a snail's pace: Babies add about three inches to their body every three months, while it can take a toddler a year to grow that much.

How to deal: Don't expect your toddler to dine on an adult's schedule. "Many toddlers would rather graze than eat three full meals," says Dr. McCoy. Instead, offer your child five mini meals throughout the day, and avoid letting her fill up on sources of empty calories, like sugary fruit drinks and soda. If she refuses a few meals, don't panic or try to force or bribe her to eat: She won't starve. "Toddlers usually end up getting all the nutrients they need, even when their eating patterns are erratic," says Ellen O'Leary, RD, nutrition coordinator at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

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