How do you get your 2yo to eat anything apart from snacks?

Jenny - posted on 03/20/2011 ( 20 moms have responded )

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Its always a battle trying to get something substantial into Daniel's tummy. Sometimes i win the battle, but most times he sticks to his guns and would rather go hungry than give in and eat what i offer him. Rule in our house is at breakfast lunch and dinner you have to have some of the FOOD on offer or else no snacks later on, but its not working too well.

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Jenn - posted on 03/21/2011

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A lot of children have a hard time eating three large meals a day, and do much better eating smaller meals closer together, because their stomachs are still very tiny. This is what my pediatrician told me: "It is NOT your job to force your child to eat...It is your job to ensure that there are healthy, nutritious, well-balenced meals and snacks available throughout the day..It is your CHILD'S job to decide how hungry they are, and how much to eat, if any..". Keep this is mind next time your tempted to demand he finishes his meal before leaving the table..This is one of those things that you just have to relax about. Children go through periods of eating almost nothing to everything in sight. As long as you keep offering healthy choices, when they are truly hungry, they WILL eat. Fighting, bribing, etc is not worth it, this will simply cause mealtimes to be dreadful for everyone. You provide the food, they decide if they are hungry. Even though it pains your heart to see your little one eat none of their dinner, let it go, offer them a healthy, filling bedtime snack and hour or two later..If they still aren't hungry, its okay, they probably really aren't hungry. If your child is happy, has energy, is growing well, runs around and plays, then they are probably getting all the nutrition they need. However, if your child is losing weight, lacks energy or is tired all the time, has stomach issues such as cramps or vomiting, or anything else seems wrong, do NOT hesitate to call your doctor.. You are the best judge of whether your child is healthy or not, trust your gut, if everything seems fine, then relax, it probably is!! Check out my blog, there is an article on childrens eating that you may be interested in reading, it relates to your question...moonstruckmama.wordpress.com... Hope this helped:)

Nikki - posted on 03/21/2011

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I disagree with the statement that kids that age graze. Mine doesn't and I wouldn't allow it unless he was sick. Yes multiple small meals a day is best but for the calories intake that the child needs, grazing cant cover all that. Does he drink alot of milk or any filling beverages? If so, limit them to AFTER he eats. Otherwise, stick to your guns and serve meals as you normally would. If he doesn't eat, set aside and offer the same meal the next time, even for a "snack" this way he is eating what he needs to be eating. Plus snacks dont have to be just fruit or normal "snack" things. Corn on the cob, hard boiled egg, grilled chicken pieces dipped in avocado, a bowl of peas or diced carrots. Also give him an option. I do agree that kids that age are becoming super independent and like to be involved in decisions concerning them. Learning to make good decisions with food is something that needs to be taught from an early age. Give him an option of, say, scrambled eggs or oatmeal for breakfast. Let him choose a meal for you to cook at dinner a couple times a week. Give him options so he won't choose hot dogs everyday. My son also is invovled with the "prep" of our meals. He sets the table (placemats and napkins) and says Grace. He "stirs" what he can and hands me ingredients. This way he is just as involved and more willing to eat after all his hard work. Don't give in and give him what he wants but rather what he needs.

Margaret - posted on 03/24/2011

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First of all, Damniel is a toddler of about 2!!? As a baby he was allowed anything because he was the baby, and he is too young to understand rules especially concerning mealtimes! Whether you wish tobeleive me or not you are not alone!! Nor thi sbehaviour purely limited to just children of your Dainiel's age today! My daughter is now 30, and she was the same, and were I to ask my mother you would find that children of 2 have done it since time immemorial!
Having said that! What to do about it! Like every other behavioral situation, the two combatants are often mirrroring one another's behaviour, and by the time your tyke has now reached the age of 2, he knows all of the rules of house. He is mirroring your no meals, no treats rules to a tee! - As he understands them!
You want him to comform to the rules of your house! He too wants to conform to rules, but he is confused about why the rules for him have suddenly changed!
Think about all the times when you have won the battle yet you felt that you had lost the war!
Daneil only has a small tummy so he may not want to eat because he simply does not feel hungry! He is smaller than you and the rest of your family so, like he was when he was a newborn, did you only feed him three meals a day,and was that not milk instead of food? Of course not! You fed him according to his needs! That has not changed simply because he is two years old!
He is a toddler, and like alll toddlers he is an energetic and curious little soul!
Does this rule also extend to you or anyone else in your househld when they have a cup of water/squasg/tea/ coffee? away from the meal table! Of course it doesn't!
He will eat as much as his bodily needs require energy to function! Reduce his intake at meal-tmes, take him to the Doctor's if you feel worried, but remember he is also having to adapt and adopt lot of information which is new to him!
But he is not used to this new pattern of behaviour that you are now expecting him to adopt as though knows not only the rules, but also the consequences of flouting them!
Think back and give some thought as to how you won those battles! They make up the war's outcome!

Heather - posted on 03/22/2011

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I am not sure about replacing the meal with milk. I know you are trying to get something in and the calories are good, but you want to make sure he isn't filling up on milk rather than other things he might eat. I would have to look, but just check the oz of milk he needs a day for his age. This always helped us to stay on track.
:)Heather
www.heatherharteronline.com

Allie - posted on 03/20/2011

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I disagree with @jennifer... I say don't let them graze. If you want him to eat a meal, cut out most of the snacking... limit to 3 meals and 1 (maybe 2 depending on day's activities) snack... that way he's hungrier come meal time. Also, make the snacks healthy and filling so he stays fuller longer that way he doesn't need more and more snacks.



If you have major concerns talk to your son's pediatrician, they'll be able to give you healthy eating tips.



**and under no circumstances am I suggesting that you starve/with hold food from you child, if he is really REALLY hungry feed him of course. Kid's do burn a lot of calories with all their crazy energy levels and some need more snacks than others.







(sorry if this is confusing/contradicting, but good luck!)

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Jenny - posted on 01/03/2013

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Breakfast lunch and dinner is when I offer him the most nutritious of food. Snacks is when I let him have a biscuit. So what I'm convening in my opening session is that he never eats the good healthy stuff and always waits it out till snack time when there are biscuits on offer to eat. So better put, the rule i'm trying to enforce is you must eat some healthy food (meats, veggies and dairy) before you can have "snack food" like a biscuit or a cracker.

I hear you on just not having biscuits or crackers available for him to choose, but this is something that I also like to munch on every now and then between meals and I don't think it's totally in the bad food category like chips, lollies and chocolate are.

Its been a long time since this post and now my son is 4years old and I have a daughter that is 2.5. The diffrence between their appetite is huge. Isabelle has always naturally reached for fruits (she would eat 5 whole mandarins in one sitting if I let her, which I don't because that would be too much acid for her little tummy) and Daniel has always reached for dry foods like crackers or bread. Sometimes if he's snacky and I'm not in the immediate vicinity he will pull out a plain slice of bread and eat that while Isabelle would grab a nectarine and eat that.

Both of them are just naturally inclined to different types of foods and Daniel still does not get enough variety of foods into his diet and its difficult to combat this.

Shannon - posted on 01/03/2013

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Jeez Jenny, stop beating yourself up! They all graze at this age (apart from the gloating mothers out there that want to make you feel bad cuz they are perfect)!!! Do NOT make food an issue ever! Do not withold food nor make them eat freezing cold rotten food from 2 hours previous!
My daughter was a pain in the neck with food and they DO grow out of it so stop beating yourself up. Feed your child when He is hungry and make him something that he wants (not crap) so he will eat it. Never have junk food in the house and then they can't want it. Baking and cooking with them helps them want to eat what they have made.
Hope this helps
Shannon

Patricia - posted on 01/01/2013

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Actually it is much healthier to be a grazer as long as you are grazing on nutritious stuff.

People have this thing about sitting down to meals when really those who grave all daylong tend to be thinner.

I would suggest only giving him 2 choices. Limit the choices and if he doesn't want it then let him stew a little. They will almost always come back.

Jen - posted on 03/22/2011

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I have 2 girls 5 and 2. I insist on breakfast (something healthy) and dinner (all food groups). I am practical about how much I put on my kids plates knowing how much they eat. As for lunch I am fine with replacing it with some healthy snacks during the day. Sometimes they will sit for a meal at lunch sometimes they won't. Either way they are eating healthy and growing.

Bonnie - posted on 03/22/2011

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My kids are 2.5 and 4 and they sometimes are the same way. Really when you think about, they don't have to eat full meals and can snack throughout the day, but in this case most snacks should be healthy, like fruits, vegetables, crackers.

Jane - posted on 03/21/2011

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The first year or two of life babies are growing like crazy and they eat like crazy. But at age two or so their growth rate slows way down, Thus many two-year-olds really aren't very hungry at meals. We just made sure that neither of our kids was losing weight, and that what they did eat was healthy for them. During that time period my daughter seemed to eat nothing but "papas and peas" (mashed potatoes and green peas) while my son preferred meat (his first word at age 11 months was "hamburger"). They met their growth marks and were on schedule for development, so I didn't worry.

Their favorite snacks were baby carrots, broccoli with ranch dressing, and raisins.

I did notice that every now and then they would show a spike in appetite and they would get a little chunky. Next, they would suddenly shoot up a few inches, so apparently their body was prompting them to eat more to support a growth spurt.

But most of the time, two-year-olds are like my niece. My mother described her as "living on green beans and air." She also would eat rice but only if it had soy sauce on it.

I suggest not pushing the kids to eat, but providing a series of healthy foods for them. Have them sit at the table with family for meals (that is an important social time) but don't fuss if they don't eat much overall. However, do stress healthy foods over the ones high in fat, salt, sugar, and preservatives.

Jenny - posted on 03/21/2011

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Thankyou Heather and Jenn, this helps alot, your words are very comforting to my frustration with this!
I agree that i should just keep offering him the food and let him decide if he wants to eat it, if he doesnt that fine, offer a healthy snack later.

Sometimes when he hasn't eaten much all day i compensate and let him have a bottle of milk (which i absolutely loves). Should i not do this?
And the next battle is offering those healthy snacks!

Heather - posted on 03/21/2011

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Wow! There are certainly a diverse amount of thoughts on here. :) Cheers to all of you moms trying to figure things out. I am not an expert, but I have 4 children and many adventures to share. LOL With regard to toddlers and preschoolers eating is tricky. Sometimes they will go a week where all they want is bananas and then the next week bananas are the enemy! What I have learned and has been endorsed by pediatricians and grandmothers alike :), is that all the things you are doing are just fine. Keep offering healthy choices for all meals and snacks. Children this age typically do best with 3 meals and 2 snacks. However, if all they eat is the piece of cheese and 3 crackers from breakfast and snack combined... do not panic. They will eat, they will get what they need and forcing them to eat is a stressful and painful process for both of you. As long as your child is healthy and not losing weight... I promise that he will get what he needs... and he WILL eat. :) Best of luck in your adventures!

:)Heather

http://www.heatherharteronline.com

Jenny - posted on 03/21/2011

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Idk, maybe my son is extra stubborn. I have tried putting rules with him, and not giving him anything else until he finishes what he's had in the first place, but I usually end up throwing all the food in the bin by the end of the day.

He chucks the biggest tantrums to resist the rules and i am strict with him so he knows he gets in trouble if he chucks a tantrum, but there you go he still does this. I'll put him in time out like you Allie, and then its a constant back to the high chair, him not eating or spitting it out, then back to time out. On and on it goes for over an hour at which point i think its just not worth this fight!

I also read somewhere that its not good to let food become a huge issue because that's how the big food issues start in the first place. So conflicted and confused.

He's extremly strong willed and would sit in his high chair for hours if i dont let him down. Again after doing this a couple times i just dont feel right about it. It does not feel like it is working and feels like it creates complex problems in our relationship.

I've left his food lying around too hoping he'll go back to it when he's hungry. A very few times he does but mostly if he's strongly against the food in the first place he will not touch it with a 10 foot poll if i promised him the world.

I feel like giving up and just saying "whatever, just eat whatever you want, i just dont care anymore, its too hard!" And then maybe trying to be strict again in six months time hoping that this will change as he matures.

Allie - posted on 03/21/2011

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My son is 2.5 and will eat/try just about anything that I put in front of him, because those are the rules..... plus he can't get out of his seat until mommy and daddy are done, out of respect and typically if he sits long enough he realizes he's hungry. He has to take courtesy bites of everything on his plate (and not spit it out or he'll go in TO for spitting). If he doesn't eat (in my opinion) enough, I'll leave his plate at his chair at the table so if he decides he's hungry later and he can go finish his dinner... I don't ever fix him something different.



I will admit that I do tend to fix meals that I know he will eat (we eat a lot of green beans, broccoli, and carrots because I can always get him to eat those veggies), which gets boring and old... but I try and throw a meal we've never tried before into the mix every week or so. Pizza and chicken nuggets are a rare treat.

Jenny - posted on 03/21/2011

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Okay maybe i should have mentioned that by snacks I mean biscuits or crakers. I find it very difficult to get him to eat healthy. Plus i have a 10mo baby and always have some plain biscuits or potato stix or something quick and easy she can munch on to keep her happy until next meal time. So I feel I cant just ban these snacks.
I always try to give variety to both my kids, would offer yogurt, cold meats, cheese, diced cucumber, boiled egg etc, but these foods never get eaten in big enough quantities to satisfy them.
My son's biggest thing is eating veggimite on wholemeal bread he will always ask for this if im saying to him "no snacks" (ie no biscuits). Its the only thing he will eat properly.
I dont care about the whole grazing / vs 3 big meals at this age. Either way he should be able to sit with us at meal times and eat what's on offer (even if it is just "grazing" on the meal by having half a full serving).

I think it has to do with food texture and apearance more than anything else as a factor. Kids this age are weary of trying new things. Any ideas regards to this?

Stifler's - posted on 03/21/2011

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I agree, kids that age graze. Trying to force them to eat meals and not snack won't work. It's better for you anyway.

User - posted on 03/20/2011

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My son tends to be a grazer when it comes to eating. He will eat a little at each meal, but never a whole lot. Then 2 hours later he is hungry again and will eat a little more. My 1 yr old daughter will eat less times in a day but will eat more at a sitting than my almost 3 yr old does. He has always been like this even as an infant it took forever for him to eat more than 2-3oz of formula at a time. He would be up every 2 hours to eat. I just always try to make his snacks healthy- yogurt, fruit, bagel, string cheese, etc. If he refuses the healthy snack, he doesn't get one...which will create a few tantrums from him. I normally will give him a few options to choose from as well.

Medic - posted on 03/20/2011

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Make everything into snack form and let him graze, that is what kids that age do....granted my four year old has days like that but he will tell me in the morning that is what he feels like so I just spread all the meals out into little snacks. I cut things up small and put tooth picks in it put ranch or yogurt for him to dip fruit and veggies into. It really is one of those things that just isn't worth the battle.

Jeannette - posted on 03/20/2011

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oooh my daughter who is also 2 is doing the same thing to me. But what i have done with breakfast and lunch is let her pick what she wants to eat as long as its not junk food i will let her have 3 options for breakfast whether it be cereal, yogurt, or canned fruit in 100% fruit juice. Then for lunch i only give her 2 options like a peanut and butter sandwich or something else like corndog or something like that. Now when it comes to dinner i let her help pick out what we have for dinner like either pork chops or chicken and let her pick out a veggie and she always picks the green beans but for the starch i pick that one like mash potatoes. That has helped us a lot with her cause she knows she has to pick something or she doesn't get nothing else.

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