If you are currently raising a toddler who by all accounts thinks he is totally capable of caring for himself, then you know the very real struggle of doing pretty much anything that puts you in control. As in, something as seemingly simple as getting their shoes and coat on to leave the house is suddenly an affair you must reserve a good 20 minutes for, because even though they have no idea yet as to how to actually slip on those tough sneakers without getting frustrated and tossing them aside, you are forced to watch them try - and heaven forbid you try to intervene and actually help them. The same struggle can also be cited when it comes to food for your kid, particularly in terms of their portion sizes.
The most important thing to remember about the best portion sizes to adhere to this holiday season for your toddler is that you should keep a totally open mind. When it comes down to it, a holiday party here and there that result in your toddler turning away from any "real" food is not going to hurt them in the long run. And for both of you, you'll save on the stress that comes along with trying to coax them into eating "just one more bite" of turkey or chicken or whatever meat they're being difficult with this week.
Still, though, choosing the right-sized portions for your toddler during the holidays is important. Mostly because you will be faced with their desire to pile all sorts of brownies and cakes onto their dinner plate. But also, because there are - believe it or not - ways to sneak in some veggies here and there and still leave them feeling like they pulled one over on mom or dad. While there is not much good that can come from policing your toddler when it comes to their eating habits during holiday get-togethers, if you pay close enough attention to their portion sizes, you can leave the in-law's house without a toddler bouncing in their car seat on a sugar high.
We may see appetizers and snacks as one of the best parts of holiday party food layouts. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of simple snacking as opposed to sitting down for a lengthier, all-out meal, right? But you'd better believe that if you're making a bee-line for those crackers and dip platters, so is your toddler.
But don't worry too much. The average recommended grain intake for a toddler involves the allowance of two crackers or four tablespoons of cooked pasta, which, admittedly, doesn't sound like much to the average adult, but for tiny toddlers with tiny tummies, that sort of food adds up fast.
Don't be afraid to let them get into any cheese-covered options, though. Since cheese is a dairy product, and it is recommended that they have two to three servings per day, toddlers could do well to get into some cheesiness when it comes to the appetizers and small plate snacks.
7 The Main Course
We can all agree that it can and will be almost too hard to get your toddler to eat any substantial and healthy meats at holiday parties. But if your toddler only needs a few cubes of meat or spoonfuls of ground beef, it shouldn't be too hard to bribe them if you have to. That's right, don't be afraid to go down that road of fruit snack bribery.
All too often, we look at our own portions and assume that our kids should be getting the same amounts of nutrition. But for these little ones, all they need are a couple of one-ounce servings of protein to get all of the nutrition they need.
Another good idea is to stick to the dessert-sized plates to sort of remind yourself that your tiny toddler definitely does not need anywhere near the amount of food you'll be eating. A smaller plate will do better in looking fuller to you too, so you're less likely to pile on anymore for their little eyes to widen in surprise at.
Technically speaking, dessert foods offer pretty much zero nutritional value to your toddler - or, if we're being honest, to anyone at all. But this is the holiday season, a time of powdered sugar-covered brownies and cheesecake creations. There will be no getting around sweets, so don't even try to.
Instead, offer up dessert items after your toddler has fulfilled their end of the bargain by eating something a little more substantial first. And the cool thing about the holidays is that sometimes, you'll even find those desserts that have sugar and fruit. Banana bread, anyone?
It's The Best Part
In a perfect world, we may advise you to just say "no" to all desserts, altogether. But let's face it. The dessert is always the best part, and often at holiday parties, we've got tables and tables full of chocolates, cakes, and cookies that pretty much anyone would drool over, so we definitely shouldn’t expect anything less from our toddlers.
5 Carbs, Carbs, And More Carbs
If the holidays are all about desserts, then it is fair to say that carbs of any kind take a very close second place. Who doesn't love a good potato chip binge or a heaping pile of mashed potatoes?
For your toddler, two tablespoons of carb-related sides are all that is really necessary, though, so once they've filled their quota of that, they're free to return to running about the party in a blur of messy hair and chocolate-spotted hands.
A Few Other Options
And there is such a thing as good carbs which can satisfy your little one's taste just as much as greasy (but oh so delicious) French fries. Wheat bread rolls or quinoa dishes will also provide healthy carbs while also working in making your tot a little too full for too many of those sweets - we hope.
For the most part, it shouldn’t be all too hard to get your toddler to enjoy a sippy cup full of milk. Not only will it help wash down any of those sweets, but it'll also provide all of the Vitamin D they'll need for the day.
Other than that, stick to ice water or watered down juices that are as naturally fruit-based as possible. It's probably a no-brainer that toddlers shouldn’t be enjoying any soda or otherwise caffeinated beverages, even if it is a special occasion. Holiday or not, that sort of added sugar isn't something anyone really needs, let alone a toddler.
Something To Consider
Basically, when you're considering beverage portion sizes over the holidays for your toddler, think of the drinks you would normally give to him or her. While this is a fine time to be more lenient on some things, beverages aren’t something to skimp on, especially as the only real alternatives to your toddler's everyday beverages are full of syrup sweetness.
3 Veggies (And The Battle That Comes With Them)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers should be getting two to three servings of vegetables each day. For a toddler, you should use the rule of giving them one tablespoon per year of age to count as a serving each. Which, by all accounts, isn't the hardest thing to accomplish. For the most part.
However, there is always the struggle of actually getting them to eat enough vegetables, no matter how small the serving size may be. There are plenty of ways to sneak veggies into your meals at home, but when you're left to sneak veggies into your toddler's play at holiday parties, things get just a bit trickier.
A Few Tips
Stick to vegetables that are naturally sweeter, like cooked carrots, and opt for sweet potatoes, if you see any available. Getting your kid to eat veggies will be a years-long battle. Unless of course you’ve got one of those kids who are the opposite of picky. And if that's the case, you are luckier than you know. But if you've got a toddler who is wary of most vegetables, then you understand all too well the struggle of getting them to eat different veggie options in a normal setting, let alone at a holiday party.
2 Hidden Nutrition
The holiday season does pretty well in making things a great deal harder to deal with when it comes to giving your growing toddler all of the nutrition that he or she needs. But it isn't too hard to settle for the hidden nutrition in some of the more common holiday dinner dishes and be satisfied with that. And that goes for the both of you.
If they eat a few bites of turkey, then hey, at least they had some meat. And if they decide to scarf down and then sneak even more of that sweet zucchini bread, guess what? There are legitimate vegetables in that stuff, so score one for whatever relative brought those loaves.
Fruits Are A Must
And since getting your kid to eat fruits is probably one of the easiest things you'll do when it comes to their holiday meals, make sure to bring out the food tables for those fruit bowls and fruit salads. No, your kid can't live off of several bananas per day, but if it's that or another fudge brownie, then take the banana.
1 Let Things Slide
It's often hard enough getting your rambunctious and increasingly independent toddler to eat healthy meals at home, let alone when you're out and about at the many holiday parties per day that you're obligated to attend. Don't get too stressed out if your toddler doesn’t eat his or her vegetables or if they absolutely refuse that sippy cup of milk. Not only are they not at home, but they've got 10 times the amount of family member running around them than they're used to, and an environment of excitement that makes it hard to want to sit down and eat full meals.
A few nights of dinners, out of a whole year of healthy eating, will not hurt your toddler. And really, letting some things slide will not hurt any at all. It will make the holidays a little less stressful, actually, and make it possible to enjoy yourselves more. If ever there is a time to be lenient and more laid back, it is during the holiday season.
If you can get it into your mind and remind yourself - if need be - that your child will be totally fine if they don't eat perfectly at holiday parties, then you'll undoubtedly feel a real sense of relief.