Many of us were brought up with the belief that we should clear our plate at every mealtime, but rather than expecting your child to eat everything in front of her at every mealtime, it’s far more important to teach her to regulate his own food intake and stop eating when she’s had enough. Forcing him to eat every last bit even when she’s not hungry could, eventually, lead to problems like obesity.
Nevertheless, it can be frustrating if your child often leaves his plate barely touched, but try not to make mealtimes a battleground. Children go through phases where they eat lots and phases where they eat very little, so look at what she eats throughout the week, rather than on a meal-by-meal basis; chances are that over the course of a week, she’s eating plenty. Avoid overwhelming him at mealtimes: dish up small portions of meals, give him a variety of tastes, and make food fun, for example by arranging it in funny faces or letting her help you in the kitchen.
If your toddler tends not to eat much at mealtimes, look at what she’s eating in between meals. Healthy snacks are an important part of his diet, but if she’s filling up on crisps, biscuits, milk or juice then she will have less of an appetite for her main meals, so avoid heavy snacks and instead give her lighter options like fruit, rice cakes or water.
Remember, too, that children often go off their food if they’re ill, in pain (for example during teething) or going through a developmental spurt. If, in general, your toddler is growing, in good health and has plenty of energy, it’s likely that she’s eating enough to meet her needs, but do speak to your GP or health visitor if you have concerns about her diet or appetite.
Answered by: Catherine Jeans, clinical nutritional therapist, www.thefamilynutritionexpert.com