What's the Issue?
Toddlers are creatures of habit. They crave routine and buck the system when their routines are disrupted. So how do you take a routine-driven toddler and vary his diet? It seems an inherent contradiction.
The following is an excerpt from a typical 16-month visit:
"So Mrs. Jones, how is Mikey doing with his variety of foods?"
"Well, he is very picky these days. He always picks at breakfast. So later I'll offer him a morning snack. He won't eat then either, so I'll make him some macaroni and cheese, because he likes that. Then I'll make him lunch. He won't eat it … so I'll make him some macaroni and cheese. At dinner, I'll make him a well-balanced plate and he won't eat it!"
"So what do you do?" I ask.
"Well, I usually worry that he's not had enough to eat that day, so I'll make him some macaroni and cheese."
It is usually just at that moment that Mrs. Jones realizes the major flaw in her dietary plan.
Consumption of nutritious foods is a growing problem in the United States:
- 25 percent of toddlers don't eat at least one veggie on any given day.
- 73 percent of children do not get offered a vegetable with dinner.
- In a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey in 1994, 83 percent of Americans ate at least one veggie per day, but French fries and potato chips counted!
- Only nine percent of Americans eat one green vegetable daily.
- 96 percent of children do not eat the minimum recommended serving of fruits and veggies per day.
What is the recommended nutritional intake for toddlers? According to the USDA's MyPyramid nutrition guide, the average active one- to two-year-old requires, per day:
- 500 mg of calcium (found in about two cups of dairy)
- one cup of fresh fruit
- one cup of fresh veggies
- about three ounces of grains
- about two ounces of meat or protein
(Remember these calculations from when you reevaluated your child's dietary needs at age 12 months? 1 ounce = 2 tbsp; 8 oz = 1 cup )
Another growing problem is our children's weight. Thirty-two percent of all US children are overweight. That number is rising.