It’s common for parents and caregivers to wonder if their toddler is getting enough nutrients. Toddlers are infamous for having an inability to sit still during meals and getting easily distracted mid-bite. So when you count up all the half-eaten sandwiches and nibbles of fruit, are they really getting enough food?
The Recommended Daily Diet
To help you understand if your little one is eating enough, let’s first start with what the nutrition experts recommend as a healthy daily intake for 2-3 year-olds:
- 3-5 oz of grains
- 1-1.5 cups of raw or cooked vegetables
- 1.5 cups of fruit
- 2-2.5 cups milk
- 2-4 cups of protein
If you’re like most parents, you’re probably not breaking out the food scale or measuring cup at each meal, so while this list is helpful as a nutritional guide, it may still leave you wondering if your toddler is eating enough. One key thing to keep in mind is their portion size.
How Much Should a Toddler Eat?
It’s easy to get into the habit of serving your toddler a plate that looks like your own. When you eat at restaurants, even meals on the child’s menu can appear to be served in mega-sized portions. This portion debacle may cause you to wonder if your child is eating enough. Keep in mind that toddler portions should be between a quarter to a half size of what an adult portion looks like. So if your child isn’t finishing their plate, it may not be that they’re not eating enough, they may just need some adjustments in the size of their portions.
Signs Your Toddler Isn’t Eating Enough
After you check the nutritional guides and double-check their portions, another way to tell if your toddler is eating enough is to turn to the red flags. If you notice these signs, contact your pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist for guidance:
They’re not gaining weight and/or they’re losing weight.
On average, a toddler gains up to 5 pounds throughout their second year of life. If they’re not gaining weight and/or they’re losing weight, it could be cause for concern.
They haven’t grown taller.
While every child adds inches to their height at a different pace, malnourishment is often a cause of toddlers not keeping up with their average growth rate.
They lack energy and motivation.
If your child prefers to take a nap over one of their favorite activities, it could point to an iron deficiency, which can lead to extreme fatigue and apathy.
There’s a lack of interest in their favorite foods.
It is no surprise that toddlers can be picky eaters. Some even have sensory issues when it comes to eating and trying new foods. However, if an offering of their favorite food or snack doesn’t do the trick, there could be a problem with their eating patterns, leading to a lack of nutrition.
Constipation is often a culprit of toddlers not eating enough. This typically happens when they consume too much of one thing, such as milk, and not enough fiber. Of course, this makes their tummies upset and makes them feel full, so persistent constipation can lead to a decrease in appetite.
A proper diet is essential to your child’s physical and mental growth and development. Never hesitate to contact your pediatrician if you’re worried about your toddler getting enough healthy foods.