During the second year of life, children show more and more interest in food and parents may notice that they are choosier about what they eat. Growth rates slow at this time and toddlers may seem to eat less compared to the first year of life and children at this age will usually want to eat what the people around them are eating and will reach out and grab foods and drinks. It is therefore the perfect opportunity to set a good example as a role model. At this time the child will also make a transition from breast milk or infant formula to whole cow's milk and should be drinking out of a cup rather than a bottle. Their expanding palate is ready for new colours, textures, and flavours and it is the perfect time to offer a variety of healthy foods, not only for their meals a day but also for snacks.
Eating habits formed in the first two years of life are thought to persist for years, if not for life so it is important to establish healthy habits as early as possible. Children begin expressing personal preferences at an early age so parents need to guide a child's healthy food choices and allow the child to determine what and how much he or she wishes to eat. At times, it may seem to you that your child is not eating enough food but forcing children to eat something that they do not want makes them stubborn about their eating habits. By allowing some independence at this age you will be helping to alleviate mealtime problems in the future. It is very important to keep in mind that your child's stomach is much smaller than adults and therefore he or she does not need as much food as an older sibling does.
Some useful tips to bear in mind when feeding your young child includes:
l Use smaller plates for toddlers and let their appetite regulate how much food they want to eat.
l Do not force, bribe or nag a child to finish or clean the plate.
This negative approach will lead to arguments over food or could result in an overweight child who develops habits that are difficult to break. Your child will let you know when he or she has had enough by clamping his or her lips closed, pushing away the plate or dropping the food on the floor.
l Serve a well balanced meal that includes foods from all the food groups and offer them in small quantities. If your child is still hungry and asks for more, give more vegetables or fruit.
l If the child is cutting back on the amount of milk he or she drinks, offer yoghurt or low-fat cheese as a snack.
When most of your child's teeth have come through, he or she is ready to chew new textures. However, there is still a risk of choking so you need to avoid certain foods. It is best to avoid giving young children small pieces of fruits such as whole grapes, raw vegetables, or chunks of cooked meat because they could be hazardous. Instead, cut everything into tiny pieces or short, fine sticks; for very young children, cook food well and then mash or purée it. Since kids of this age prefer to grab everything within reach and put it in their mouth all at once, try giving a few bites at a time so that they learn not to rush when eating. If the child refuses a new food, remove it without fuss and try to reintroduce it later. Make the effort to eat with your child often. This can encourage your child to try new foods.