Good Nutrition for Little Ones: The Holidays and Year Round


Good Nutrition for Little Ones: The Holidays and Year Round


The following reprint, written by Betsy Groth, is from an article that appeared in the Old Saybrook Early Childhood Council newsletter and local newspaper.



The fall and winter holidays are here.  It is safe to say that all of these occasions feature food very prominently.  Now is a good time to look at how we feed our little ones, not just at the holidays but all year round.


Some basics about feeding toddlers and preschoolers:


Almost every child experiences an appetite drop at around his first birthday:  Kids simply need fewer calories per pound of body weight for growth. It is rarely a cause for concern unless the child is losing weight. Caregivers should resist the temptation to prepare special meals or offer unhealthy, processed foods to coax the child to eat more. Expect that toddlers and preschoolers will have perhaps one “good” meal per day - and it’s rarely dinner.

It might take many attempts before a toddler will accept a new food:  It has been estimated it may range from 10 to 15 times. See also below, ‘No “Food Fights.”’

Feed the little ones what you eat: This is presuming that you have a healthy, varied diet, free of junk and processed food. Make sure foods are cut up in pieces small enough that they do not present a choking hazard.


Keep plates and portions small: This makes eating more appealing and less daunting to youngsters..


Do not expect perfect table manners and do not expect a toddler to sit through a very long meal: Remember, socializing these little ones to proper table manners is a process and demands common sense and some knowledge of child development

No “food fights”: The one thing you want to engage in with a toddler is a power struggle; you will lose. In the words of Ellyn Satter, your job is to buy, prepare and serve healthy food. The child’s job is to eat it. Further it is NOT your job to wheedle, threaten, cajole, or prepare “special meals” to substitute for a rejected meal. A hungry child will eat.

Involve children in shopping and food preparation as early as possible:  This is a very tall order for busy families, but aim for as much involvement as possible.

Holidays may seem like a “lose/lose” proposition” regarding sugar and junk food., especially Halloween.  Some strategies that families have developed are 1) limit the number of houses children visit for Trick or Treat, 2) organizing neighborhood parties as an alternative to Trick or Treating and 3) having children donate some of their goodies to a Halloween Fairy.  The excess candy usually finds itself at Mom’s or Dad’s place of work. Opinions on this option vary.

Many excellent resources exist for  families on how to feed our children healthy and enjoyable foods., and to develop good eating habits for a lifetime. Popular authors include Ellyn Satter and  Vicki Lasky. 

Over the holidays,  parents and caregivers will mostly try their very best to help the little ones remember what a green vegetable  looks and tastes like. (Also , parents: lots of junk food often leads to constipation so don’t be taken by surprise.) . We as adults are also charged with  teaching our younsters gratitude. The holidays are a wonderful time to involve them in supporting our local food pantries, either as a family or through local organizations and schools

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