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My son is 15 months old, and has been eating an increasing variety of solid foods. However, we are having a hard time getting him to eat normal "meals".

His favorite foods are more in the category of "snacks"; particularly dry cereal, whole wheat "gold fish" crackers, pretzels and (most recently) tortilla chips (and salsa). However, at meal times he tends to get hungry before we're ready, and frequently fills up on milk or snacks while we're waiting for the meal to be ready.

The end result is that he'll eat mostly milk, and carbs. Even when he does a good job eating, when we're not at home his meal will include mostly bread or grains (he loves toast, crackers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and even tortilla chips), and only a couple of bites of meat (roughly the equivalent of a single chicken "finger" or strip), and, if we're lucky, assorted bites of vegetables, rice, or beans.

At home we do tend to have better results in making sure he gets fruit (applesauce is usually easy to get him to eat) and vegetables, but it can still be difficult.

For the first year, the rule of thumb was "nutrition comes from formula". Now that he's off formula, what are the general guidelines for ensuring proper nutrition as he slowly expands his repertoire of foods?

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3 Answers

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Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to keep more balanced snacks readily available. That way when he's snacking it could be on carrots or apples sometimes instead of pretzels or crackers all the time.

Another option is to look at adjusting either his meal schedule or yours. It's not going to kill your kid to spend half an hour or so hungry, and you may find that he eats better as a result. However, everyone else's lives may not be quite so fun until he's used to the new schedule. :-)

Finally, if his diet is carb-heavy when he's not at home, try making it carb-light when he is to help balance things out. For example, give him extra helpings of meat & veggies and skimp on the mashed potatoes or rice. If you have some sway over his diet when he's not in your immediate care, you could pack him some snacks for the day.

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I had a similar problem with my daughter (I called her the carb junkie).

Todlers are great grazers and they love eating food that is familiar to them. My daughter tended to reject food that was different or new. I tried to give her a few different things on her plate - whatever the big people were eating and also some things that I knew she would eat. This way the normal "meal" food becomes familiar, even if in the first instance they just sit on the plate uneaten.

Try to restrict snacks close to meal time so he is hungry for the main event. If timing doesn't work for him to eat with the rest of the family perhaps you could try keeping aside a small portion of what you had for dinner the night before and give this to him the next night.

Also keep in mind that the rate of growth starts to decline around this age, so don't be surprised if he is eating less.

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We made a switch from three to four meals per day, which solved this problem for us. Instead of breakfast, lunch, dinner, we have breakfast, lunch, a light merienda and then a light dinner.

Breakfast consists of the usual well balanced assortment (cereal, bread, fruit, eggs, juice). Lunch is where most of the carbs are consumed, followed by a merienda that consists of some snack type stuff, plus carrots / celery / fruits. Dinner is the major meat helping of the day, usually accompanied with a salad.

The meals are spaced out enough that there isn't a whole lot of snacking in between. All of us noticed that we have more energy during the day as well, and don't get sluggish after dinner which encourages more evening activities.

The other positive here is another opportunity to offer incentive for finishing a meal. E.g. if you finish your merienda snack, you can (...), then later the same for dinner.

It may not be possible or even ideal for everyone, but it really worked out well for us.

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