You can lead a young child to the table, but you can't make her eat — nor should you. Let your child's appetite guide how much food is enough.
Although they're no longer babies, young children aren't ready for adult-size portions. Judge how much your toddler or preschooler needs to eat using these tips:
- Serve small helpings and wait until your child asks for more. Offer one tablespoon of food for every year in age.
- Watch for cues that your child is full. When she starts to play with food, becomes restless or sends other signals of "no more," stop. Knowing what it feels like to be full — and when to stop eating — helps children learn to eat enough but not to overeat.
- Disband the "clean plate" club. Making your child finish everything can encourage overeating or turn your child off to foods they should be eating. In either case, you could be setting up your child for weight or other nutritional problems later in life.
If your child is growing normally, seems healthy and has energy to play, she probably is eating enough. If you're unsure, talk to your child's doctor or visit a registered dietitian.