Skip to main content

Family Nutrition: Parents- Powerful or Powerless When it comes to Food Choices by Toddlers

I see clients of all ages, from infancy to geriatrics.  The common theme of all of my clients is at one time or another they were toddlers.  Sometimes I see older clients who describe early patterns that I suspect are partly responsible for the way a current client eats or “diets.”  At other times, I see toddlers who “rule their roost” and need a little nudge from their parents for a stricter regimen.
I’ve written a lot about toddlers.  Mostly because I think this is a very specific time to start introducing good nutrition habits, but also because I am in the toddler zone with a four and almost three year old.  This is a time when textures, smells, and taste can be very scary.  If you mix that in with a child who is developing their independence, this can be one challenging time.
I have many parents ask me what the right thing to do is for their toddler and I’ve addressed this in some of my other articles (check them out by searching toddler in the blog search).  Here are a couple of things I will also suggest.
1)      At the age of 2, start offering your toddler the same meal you are cooking for the “adults.”
2)      Recognize that textures, smells, and taste can be sensitive to your toddler, but always stick with making the toddler try each item on their plate.
3)      Pay attention to portion size.  New items are overwhelming and portions should not be too big.
4)      When coordinating your meal, insure that there is one item that you are sure the child will eat.  This becomes the “safe” food.
5)      If your child refuses to eat any of the new items and asks for more of the “safe” food be firm and explain to the child that they can get more of the “safe” food if they eat or try the other accompanying foods.
6)      Be specific when you are talking about how much needs to be eaten of the accompanying foods.  Toddlers are smart and manipulative.  If you generally tell them to eat something they will expect and demand more of that safe food after one taste.
7)      If it becomes a battle and your child will not try the new items, simply excuse the child from the table to avoid a negative experience. 
8)      If your child complains of hunger offer an apple or other fruit or a vegetable.  If children are hungry they will eat what they are offered.  If they refuse it, they’re most likely not as hungry as their temper.

Are you reading this and thinking yeah right?  I get it.  There have been many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, but my end goal to have  responsible children who understand the true meaning of food for fuel always wins out. You as the parent are the number one controlling factor for instilling healthy nutrition to your child.  If you are consistent with your behavior your child will start to understand that food is for fuel and that leaving a table without eating anything but ¼ of rice results in a hungry stomach.  Your smart and manipulative toddler will soon learn that he/she will need to eat dinner to prevent hunger and fatigue in the future.
Research proves my thought that the parent is powerful.  A recent research study completed at Texas A&M University studied 75 children ages 3 to 5.  In the study, the toddlers watched two shows.  One show had commercials primarily advertising french fries and another advertised apples and dipping sauces.   After the shows were completed, toddlers were allowed to pick a coupon of either the french fries or the apples.  Parents were asked to provide input, half who encouraged their child to eat healthy and half who were neutral. 
Seventy five percent of the toddlers who watched the french fry commercials chose french fries if their parents remained neutral but when parents encouraged healthy choices this number dropped to 55%.  Forty six percent of the toddlers who watched the commercials with the apple slices picked french fries and when parents encouraged healthy choices only 33% continued to pick the french fries.
This study showed that advertisements do have an influence on children’s choices; however parents encouragement to eat healthy was able to undo some of the messages by commercials. 
Parents you aren’t powerless.  Be consistent, be a good role model, and may the force be with you to be patient.  Good luck and be well.
The picky toddler not happy with his choice


Popular posts from this blog

Food Trends: Macros Misconstrued

Oh Macros, how I love thee. You are the foundation of my nutrition recommendations. You should be individualized and different for everyone although you are "prescribed" routinely the same person to person. You are scientific, there is not a one size fits all, and frankly you are misunderstood.

A couple of years ago Macros started to become more popular in the www world when a brilliant someone decided to market magical macro percentages to induce weight loss, body massing, and everything else under the sun. The thought process is to start with grams of protein needs dependent on body weight, to then look at range of fats between 25-35% dependent on goals and body type, and to provide the remaining of your macro goals from carbohydrates.  How easy, especially since everyone has the same protein needs, insert sarcasm here.

Right away many bought into this bullet proof hope and we now have too many folks determining and "prescribing" ratios for people who aren't …

A Note to Self before "Bathing Suit Season"

We are coming up on Memorial Day Weekend. The pools will open, beach season begins, and everyone is scurrying around to buy new bathing suits or cover ups. Although I LOVE summer there's an aspect of this time of year that I very much dislike.  I absolutely cannot stand the insecurity bathing suits bring to the mind. How many of your friends' Facebook and Instagram posts read "Gotta get bikini ready" or "I'm not ready for bathing suit season?" It's on everyone's minds and we have much better things to worry about people.

The fact of the matter is that MOST people feel vulnerable in a bathing suit. Think about it you are practically naked and I'm pretty sure the woman whose body modeled your final product may have had longer legs or is 15 years old.

Is it really worth allowing yourself to feel vulnerable and insecure over something that realistically isn't even created to showcase your body's strengths?  What in the world does how yo…


I am a runner, although not currently training for anything. I started off running track in high school, short distance sprints ( an 800 was LONG for me) and I've always run many miles with my soccer endeavors.  In college I dabbled with running longer mileage but would cap it at 30 minutes. Ahhh the days of exercising 30 minutes a day, I remember those!!  

Shortly after I had my second child I realized how crazy life was with two children under the age of 18 months. I started running for two reasons: 1) It was the only time I had to myself  2) I lost so much of my core strength and endurance with back to back pregnancies I needed my strength back.  I've run 5 half marathons, many 10 milers and more than I can count 10 Ks, 5 milers, and 5 K's. My closet is lined with ribbons, medals, and trophies and even some podium awards.

Once I felt I mastered my running goals, and tired or runners knee,  I started competing in triathlons. What a challenge! I was stoked to make the p…