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Dietitian’s tip for huge toddler mealtime problem

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Brought to you by Little Bellies.

Knowing if your toddler has enough to eat is a struggle for many parents, but it doesn’t have to be.

In our latest Facebook Live, brought to you by Little Bellies, Dr Kyla, a paediatric dietitian, mum and the founder of Toddler Mealtimes, says it’s important for parents to trust what their toddler is telling them when it comes to hunger. 

“It’s more normal for toddlers to not eat dinner than it is for them to eat dinner,” says Dr Kyla.

“Because what we find is that most babies, toddlers, kids – they’re the most amazing creatures in terms of intuitive eating, so they are very much in tune with those tummies.”

Watch the full interview below:

Signs your toddler is full

Dr Kyla says that if your child is full, you should start to see them slowing down and eating less – they might even get a bit silly. 

“Depending on their age, if they’re starting to throw food, or are starting to get a little bit destructive, one of the best things that you could do is be predictable in your approach and say, ‘Okay, well, when you do that, you’re telling Mummy that you’re done, and we’re going to pack away.”

“I respect what your tummy is saying”

It’s common for parents to doubt what their kids are telling them around mealtimes, but Dr Kyla says having a “predictable” response is more important than a few extra mouthfuls.

“When we don’t trust what they’re telling us, that’s when this [the silly behaviour] can stretch out a little bit. So they’ll do more of the throwing or more of the messing around or being silly,” says Dr Kyla. 

“I prefer that you were just predictable, calm and consistent in your response and say something like, ‘Okay when you do that, we’re going to pack away’.

“Even if you’d left them for another five minutes, and they’ve maybe eaten another two spoonfuls, in the scheme of things, that’s not as important as having a clear, ‘I respect what your tummy is saying, and I’m going to stop now’ response.”

“You’re the boss of your body”

As your toddler gets older you can start modelling language that helps them express when they are full. 

Language such as, “‘All done’ or ‘all finished’, or ‘I’m full,’ so they can start to tell you that, and you respect it, even if you think they perhaps haven’t had enough,” says Dr Kyla.

“What we’re trying to teach our toddlers is that you’re the boss of your body. And if you tell me that your body is done with eating, then that’s cool, we’ll pack away.”

2 things to remember at dinner

Dr Kyla wants parents to try these two things when serving up dinner. 

1. Eat as a family

“Number one: if possible, you want to be sitting down to eat at the same time as your toddler, because the more that other people are doing that same thing, the easier it is for them to learn from you,” says Dr Kyla.

2. Serve one food you know they will eat

“The second most important thing, or the second thing on my important list, is you have to have something on that plate or on that table that you know your child can comfortably and confidently eat,” she explains.

“Sometimes we do make it a bit tricky for ourselves by not really making sure there’s at least one easy food for our toddlers to eat on a plate.”

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