Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters. They tend to prefer to graze throughout the day, rather than sit and eat a complete meal. Also, a toddler will eat a much smaller quantity of food than adults, so it may seem as if your toddler isn’t getting enough food, especially at lunch. If you are concerned that your child is not thriving on his diet, bring him to the pediatrician for a check-up.
How Much Should a Toddler Eat?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a toddler needs about 40 calories per inch of a toddler’s height. For example, if your toddler is 30 inches tall, he needs roughly 1,200 calories per day. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, a week-long record is a better indication of your toddler’s eating habits. Some days, a toddler may feel “off” and won’t eat much, but other days he may consume twice his normal amount. Usually, if you average an entire week, it will equal out to roughly the correct amount. Shoot for roughly 300 calories at lunch, but don’t be too concerned if he doesn’t eat it every day. Alternately, if he still seems hungry, don’t feel bad about giving him more.
When Should Toddlers Eat?
Those 1,200 calories a day that your child should be eating can be spread throughout the day. Some toddlers eat huge breakfasts to fill up from not eating all night, but gradually taper off during the day. Other toddlers pack it in at the evening meal. If your child hasn’t eaten much breakfast or morning snack, try offering a higher calorie lunch. If you are counting the calories, don’t forget to count the snacks and cups of milk your toddler may be eating and drinking. Just like adults, those calories count.
What Toddlers Should Eat for Lunch
Feed your toddler whatever she will eat. If your child is a picky eater, you have a tougher time on your hands. Get your child to help prepare her lunch as much as possible. She’ll probably eat more of it. Sandwiches cut into shapes, yogurt to dip her food into and bright colors are all enticing to toddlers. Keep in mind that typical “lunch” food doesn’t have to be eaten. She likes cereal and oatmeal, and that’s all? It’s OK. She’ll soon grow out of that phase. Feed her what she wants, as long as it is healthy.
If you have concerns that your child is not eating enough at lunch or through the day, make an appointment with the pediatrician. The doctor will probably weigh her and measure her height to ensure that she is growing on the same curve as in the past. If the doctor is concerned about the weight issue, she may put your child on a liquid supplement awhile to raise her nutritional value.