At 18 months, your toddler's eating habits are changing. He is now ready to eat "grown-up" food and start building the eating habits that will last for the rest of his life. At the same time, your toddler is growing less rapidly than he did for the first year or so of his life and his eating habits may have changed. Toddlers may begin to refuse food at this age. Dr. Stephen Dowshen, chief medical expert of KidsHealth.org, advises not to force food on children. Instead, schedule 3 meal and 2 snack times at the same time each day so there are plenty of opportunities to eat.
Feed your 18-month-old 6 servings (a serving is 1/2 slice or 1/4 cup) of bread, cereal, rice or pasta daily. Whole-grain pasta and bread and brown rice are the healthiest options for toddlers. To encourage a taste for it, mix white rice, bread and pasta with the brown variety in a 4 to 1 ratio. Then slowly build up the ratio of brown to white. Look for iron-fortified cereals and grains.
Feed your 18-month-old 3 servings (1 serving is 1/4 cup cooked or 1/2 cup raw) of fruit daily. Avoid hard fruits and small pieces of fruit such as grapes or blueberries which can cause a choking hazard. Citrus fruit is OK at 18 months old.
Feed your 18-month-old 2 servings (1 serving is 1/4 cup cooked and 1/2 cup raw) of vegetables daily. Minimize the amount of raw vegetables you give your 18-month-old. Large pieces may be hard to bite and chew. Smaller pieces may cause a choking hazard.
Feed your 18-month-old 4 servings (1 serving is 1/2 cup milk or yogurt or 3/4 of an ounce of cheese). Limit your 18-month-old's cow milk intake to 16 to 24 ounces per day. Too much cow milk can interfere with your child's iron absorption.
Feed your 18-month-old 2 servings (1 serving is 1 egg or 1/2 cup of cooked beans) of protein-rich food daily. Avoid feeding your 18-month-old nuts. They are small and hard and may pose a choking hazard. Concentrate on iron-fortified or naturally iron-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, beans and tofu.
Tips & Warnings
- Water is the best thing for your 18-month-old to drink when she is thirsty. Other drinks such as juices and sodas have empty calories that will take the place of healthier food.
- Bottle wean by 18 months to avoid baby bottle tooth decay.
- The greater variety of foods you feed your toddler, the better. This will provide a wide range of nutrients and broaden your toddler's palate.
- Never leave your 18-month-old unattended while she eats.
- Keep to a food schedule. Don't let your toddler snack all day. If your toddler skips a meal, she will know that the next one is coming soon.
- Watch for allergic reactions as your 18-month-old tries new foods. Be sure to inform your doctor of any food allergies of family members.
- At 18 months, iron-rich foods are important. Iron deficiency can affect a child's physical, mental and behavioral development and lead to anemia.
- Avoid feeding your 18-month-old junk food. Junk food such as chips, candy and other processed foods are full of sugar and empty calories. At this age, kids are beginning to refuse food and eat less as they grow more slowly. They may not have appetite for many calories and all of those calories should be nutritious.
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