I'm worried my 18-month old isn't getting enough to eat. Just gets to be such a struggle to feed him. We've always had to work to get in the calories to keep him at the 50%. Sometimes I just wish he'd be like us -- EXCITED about food and eating.
In the morning I mix up whole milk with chocolate (extra calories), give him some dry cereal and try feeding him some yogurt or baby oatmeal -- he used to LOVE yogurt. I'm lucky if he eats a bite of anything. He usually just drinks 3-4 ounces of his breakfast beverage.
He goes to day care and I know they work with him to get him to eat, although he's not a big breakfast eater there. He gets instant breakfast as his lunch beverage and a spoonful of peanut butter for dessert.
We're so busy it's hard to fix supper for us, let alone him. I usually fix him soup, canned spagetti, mashed up toddler meals, some chopped up veggies and a slice a cheese. But lately he doesn't want cheese anymore or premium ice cream for dessert. I know he's a toddler and supposedly toddlers self regulate, but I swear this child hardly eats a thing for us.
At 18 months old, kids do self-regulate. Their appetites change from day to day and even from meal to meal. It's okay for them too eat a little or a lot. Most parents worry that their toddler isn't eating enough, but most eat enough for growth and health.
These are the recommendations I was given for a 1 to 3 year old. I'm not a doctor but this is what I was told they need to grow and thrive!
Protein: 16 grams per day (a 6-oz glass of milk plus an ounce of meat)
At least 30% of their calories should come from fat.
Calories: Their daily calorie intake should be 40 calories per inch of height.
Calcium: 800 mg. The 6oz of milk still leaves them short by one serving; yogurt, leafy greens and cheese can give the rest.
Zinc: 10 mg. Mild zinc deficiencies are common. Meat, eggs and fish all contain zinc.
We had a problem getting my son to eat at this age too; in fact it was a struggle from birth. At 3 1/2 he is just now getting better about it. We were given a daily sample diet about like this, and told these are the minimums; if they eat more, great:
2-3 3oz cups of milk
4 servings of fruits/vegetables (a serving is a tbsp per year of age)
4 servings of bread/cereals (serving size is 1/3 to 1/4 the size of an adult serving, ie 1/4 slice of bread or toast); one serving should be iron-fortified baby cereal
2 servings of meat/beans/eggs (one serving is 1/2 ounce)
A meal should provide protein, bread or cereal, fruit or vegetable or both, and milk.
The best advice the doc gave me for my peace of mind is that toddlers are very much creatures of habit - they only like to eat what is familiar to them. You might have to offer a new food several times before a toddler gets used to the taste and smell of it. Let him know he needs to at least taste it - it's ok to spit it back out, but a taste is a must...don't force it, but be persuasive and really try to get at least a taste. Just because he doesn't want it the first few times doesn't mean he doesn't like it - he's just not used to it.
The other good thing I was told was about using dessert as a reward...most anyone can make room for sweets. Instead of giving ice cream or cookies, give fruit or yogurt or even pudding with added calcium. By making dessert a reward it makes them dislike the food they have to eat in order to get dessert, and makes dessert that much more desirable. If dessert is served as part of the meal, and is equally healthy, then you don't have to worry as much if they decide to eat dessert but not dinner.
A toddler's eating is erratic and unpredictable but viewed over several days his intake will meet his daily average needs. So don't worry if on some days he refuses to eat anything, it will be made up for elsewhere.
These are some suggestions of how to make the food more palatable to a toddler:
-present new foods at least twice a week
-offer new foods along with old favorites
-serve small, toddler size portions, too much on the plate can make him feel overwhelmed
-food should be bite size
-toddlers like colorful foods
-toddlers enjoy playing with their food, it is a part of learning about it, and it's ok within reason
-let them help in food preparation
-make food attractive; arrange it in the shape of an animal, a face, etc.
-offer limited choices. e.g ask "Do you want orange juice or apple juice?" instead of "What do you want to drink?"
Also, it sounds like he goes to daycare...why is he having Instant Breakfast for lunch? Is that what's offered or what you send? He should have real food for lunch...here are some ideas of things that are easy to send along:
-small boxes of favorite cereals
-whole wheat, low salt pretzels
-small juice boxes
-whole grain granola bars
Breads can be kept in the freezer to stay fresh longer, and put into a lunch box in the morning; they'll thaw out by lunch time.
I know I've been long-winded, but as a parent to an older toddler I know how frustrating and worrisome this can be! We had a real struggle with my son so I like to help others when I can...I hope some of this will be helpful to you! Good luck!
DS needs extra calories 'cuz of health issues, so we try to beef up some of his foods -- add butter, chocolate syrup to his milk once a day, dips, cheese, whole milk.. It's terrible, while most people are concerned with the amount of fat their children are getting we look for things with the highest fat content and still the little turkey would much rather sit and eat a plate of cantaloup or tomatoes instead of beef stew or mashed potatoes and gravy.
He goes to a day care center and they give him the carnation instant breakfast at lunch 'cuz his doctor has indicated that he needs to get used to drinking/eating a high calorie shake once or twice a day. CIB is cheaper than something like pediasure and tastes better. They feed him very well at school -- well balanced meals and then they have our guidelines from the dietician regarding sneaking in extra calories -- adding butter to veggies, giving him dips, etc.
I see. that does add another dimension to your problem. At least it's good that he'd rather eat healthy foods! If he loves those fruits and veggies though, you can just give him bunches of those...they don't have fat calories, but at least they have calories. Have you tried putting peanut butter on things he likes, like apples and celery? It sounds like you're doing a good job with him though...what a challenging age to be dealing with something like this. Do you mind my asking what his health issues are that require the extra calories?
DS has cystic fibrosis and needs to take pancreatic enzymes because most CFers don't digest fat. Need about 1/3 more calories than average people. Without the enzymes everything he eats (with the exception of fruit or clear sugar candy) would come out in a soupy greasy mess.
And because he was born with a bowel obstruction we think early on he didn't like to eat 'cuz he associated eating with pain.
Last night he shocked us 'cuz he usually doesn't like chunks of meat in his food -- spits out the meat in soups and entrees, but he sat down and ate most of a chopped up italian meatball and some noodles with butter. Of course then he got into the margarine container on the table and got mad when we wouldn't let him eat spoonfuls of it -- typical toddler.
Have you tried pediasure? My sons (3) appetite has been up and down since he was 1 and a half. The doctor said it is normal for kids and you wonder how they stay up and running with such little fuel. During those times I make sure he has his vitamins or a pediasure to make sure he is getting all he needs.
DD born 5/25/05
We use Carnation instant breakfast 'cuz it's cheaper and doesn't seem to be as thick or have such a strong taste. I have purchased a couple cans of sports shake and pediasure, but he's not to keen the texture.