Knowing how much your little one should eat at every mealtime can be tricky to judge. Get to grips with baby portion sizes and put your mind at rest
No doubt your little one can devour a whole packet of rice cakes at breakneck speed. Ditto yoghurts. But the green healthy stuff? Their enthusiasm often wavers here. Don’t worry if your child prefers getting spinach on the floor rather than in his mouth. A recent survey showed 26% of toddlers have a daily tantrum about food, while 13% reject parts of every single meal.
Fussy eating habits are a huge – but sometimes unnecessary – concern for mums. ‘A lot of parents worry their child isn’t eating enough, but you have to remember the proportion of babies failing to put on enough weight is really tiny compared to those who are overweight,’ says Melissa Little, paediatric dietician for babycare guide providers Essential Parent Company.
While you shouldn’t stress if your toddler is going through a fussy easting phase or is off his food because he’s feeling ill, it’s a good idea to instil good food behaviour early. If you get it right at the start, healthy eating habits are more likely to continue throughout your child’s life.
Watch out for portion sizes
Too many of us override our child’s natural hunger signals by pressurising them to eat more than they want. ‘Pushing food away is an obvious sign he’s had enough,’ says Melissa. ‘A good rule of thumb to getting the amounts right is to make sure each food group is served in a portion about the size of his fist.’ That’s a fist-sized food portion each of carbohydrate, protein and vegetables. As his hand grows, so should the amount of food he’s offered.
Don’t worry if your child prefers getting spinach on the floor rather than in his mouth
The best snacks for children
A recent report suggests we’re a bit too snack-happy with our little ones. ‘Young children do need to eat regularly, as their stomachs are much smaller,’ says Natalie Coghlan, a public health nutritionist who specialises in the way children eat. ‘Because of this, it’s important to ensure that each nibble counts nutritionally, so see it as a great chance to get more fruit and veg into your child’s diet. And, to keep them satisfied, include some protein – such as a yoghurt – to help their tummies stay fuller for longer.’ If your child still seems hungry, Melissa recommends looking at other possible reasons he’s begging for biscuits. ‘Some of the children I see snack out of boredom, so check they don’t just need a fun distraction to keep them occupied,’ she says.