Could you eat just half a cookie?
The other day I finally wanted to test my clinical experience on a personal level. My toddler is almost 20 months old and we have never given him anything with added sugar. We don’t bring it into the home, so he doesn’t know about these indulgences yet. He will one day, that's for sure. But it is important for us to model good eating behaviour at this young age. Monkey see, monkey do!
I love baking and wanted to try out a new cookie recipe with my usual 'healthy' spin on a traditional treat. At dinnertime I put one cookie on my toddler's plate alongside his dinner. And guess what? He ate a little less than half the cookie and polished off everything else on his plate. The photo below shows just how much he ate.
It’s been easy to follow this rule in quarantine. I mean, it’s not like we’re going to fancy dinner parties with abundant dessert options or temptations. But when we have gone to other’s homes in the past, there have been a few occasions where we have (reluctantly) put dessert in front of him if other’s around him were eating dessert. We don't want him to see food as "bad" or "good" if other's are eating it and he is not. On these few occasions, he was never interested. 🥳 He was satisfied/full from dinner and just wanted to play.
The AAFP recommends no added sugar until age 2 and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends avoiding or limiting sugar until age 2. Sugar can displace key nutrients required for growth and development at such a young age. In our house, we never limit foods at mealtimes with our toddler and we also never pressure him to eat.
In my practice, I like to work with families when their babies are at the early age of food introduction to make sure kiddo’s are on the right track with good eating behaviours and that they're exposed to a wide variety of foods & textures early on. Eating behaviour is about so much more than just taste. Kids can develop preferences to the way a food is prepared, the colour of a food, the way you present the food, etc. Follow up with your healthcare providers regularly so you can ask questions and get feedback on your little one as they progress through the first few years. It's easier to intervene early on, but there's also strategies you can use with older children to re-establish new feeding behaviours for picky eaters.
I feel so strongly about getting babies and toddlers off to a good start! At a young age, you are literally building the brains, digestive microbiome and cellular tissue that they will have for the rest of their lives.
EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT! What works for one child’s personality might not work for another. This is why customized care is pivotal. Your healthcare provider wants you to succeed and feel confident in feeding your children. 🙂
To offer some realness... mealtime isn’t always rainbows and sunshines in our house. Many times I have prepared lovely nutritious food only to have my toddler toss his food across the room in frustration. It takes patience and practice to stay calm, cool and collected in these moments. We usually respond calmly by saying ‘looks like you’re all done’. Then he signs all done with his hands & arms and we let him leave the table to play. No mealtime pressure or punishment.
More to come on the topic of baby/toddler nutrition! As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions.