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Toddler Eating

Vanessa T.
Pediatric Dietitian
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Wondering what to feed your picky eater? Need suggestions on new snacks to try? Or has snacking become an issue at meal time? Ask Registered Dietitian, Vanessa Thornton, questions about healthy food options that your toddler will actually eat.

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My little 3.5 yo carb lover


My 3.5 yo used to be a really well balanced eater. Now it's cereal for breakfast and, if given her choice (which she's often not), pasta for dinner. Plus a sweet tooth. To further complicate things, my husband thinks it's ok, that all kids want carbs, it's normal, etc. But insulin resistance runs in my family and I don't want to put her on that path. Thoughts for how to handle this? I could write more about what I do now to get more diverse eating, but I'll just hit send instead of writing a novel.


Hi Shannon,

Thanks for your question. It is totally normal for young children to enjoy the taste of sweets and simple carbohydrates and it can take a little work to show them that other foods can be just as appealing.

It sounds like you are helping your daughter by enforcing some guidelines and not just giving into her sweet tooth- good for you! Even if a heavy carbohydrate diet doesn’t seem to effect her now, it can be harder and harder to learn to love veggies and other food groups as she grows older, so keep fighting the good fight.

That being said, sometimes as parents we get in our own way by how we talk about food. If we say certain things are “bad” for our kids or “off limits”, most kids I know will only want those things more. The truth is, there is plenty of room in her diet for foods like pasta- we just need to be sure we are always offering balanced, portion controlled meals. If you offer 1/2 cup of pasta, some chicken and lots of veggies, she might gobble up the pasta and leave the rest, then ask for more pasta. In these moments, I encourage parents to stick with balance. Explain to your child that her body needs carbohydrate, but it also needs protein and fat and vitamins, which come from all the other foods on her plate. Keep the conversation positive and try to avoid employing diet language that adults use (ie the idea that carbs make you fat). Instead, talk about the positive aspects of all the food on the table including how delicious they all are.

Ultimately, your daughter might decide she’s rather not finish dinner than have to eat the non-pasta foods offered. That’s okay! As her parent, you are in charge of providing balanced meals and teaching her how to fuel her body. She might go to bed a little hungry (and annoyed) one night, but if you are consistent with the balance you offer, eventually she will come around and get on board with eating all the food groups.

This can be a trying process but it is worth it in the end as you can create a healthy eater for life!