Sarah: Running on Air?
Janet Zalewski marvels at her 2-year-old's energy level. "I always wonder whether Sarah's eating enough," says the Chicago mom. Although she's encouraged by her toddler's curiosity about food -- "Like my husband, Mike, she'll try anything once" -- she worries when Sarah sometimes won't eat what she's served. "If she doesn't like what I make, should I offer other foods that I know she'll eat?" It also bothers her that Sarah loves fatty foods, especially salami, hot dogs, and sausages. "Since I'm always sure she'll eat them, I keep hot dogs in the house for a quick and easy meal," admits Zalewski. (To prevent choking in kids younger than 4, cut hot dogs and sausages into small pieces -- and avoid hard candies like M&M's.)
Problems -- and solutions. Sarah drinks milk at most meals and likes ice cream and yogurt, so she's well nourished in calcium and protein. But all those hot dogs and other processed meats give her too much heart-unhealthy saturated fat and sodium -- without providing enough iron. Switching to leaner cuts of pork and beef will reduce the fat, boost iron, and lower her intake of potentially harmful sodium nitrite. Other good iron sources: eggs and iron-fortified ready-to-eat cereals.
Sarah could also benefit from boosting her intake of dietary fiber. For example, she could, as often as possible, switch from white to whole-wheat bread, from french fries to baked potatoes, and from juice to whole fruit.
There's no need for Sarah's mom to cater to her food preferences; she just needs to continue to offer a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Left to their own devices, 2-year-olds eat when they're hungry, consuming more during growth spurts, which occur less frequently than when they were babies. And Sarah's a remarkably consistent and interested eater for her age.
One month later. Sarah's eating fewer processed meats and more tuna fish, eggs, and PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches. Zalewski switched her from white to whole-grain breads for toast and sandwiches. She's boosting Sarah's fruit (and fiber) intake with a few fruit smoothies a week. A tougher challenge: limiting juice consumption. "We're both working on it," she says.
Sarah's Typical Day
- 1/4 cup 100% fruit juice mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 3/8 cup 2% milk
- 1 scrambled egg, made with 2 tablespoons 2% milk and 1/2 teaspoon butter
- 1 slice white bread (1 oz)
- Sandwich: 1 slice white bread (1 oz) and 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 3 grapes, quartered
- 2 pretzel twists
- 1 nectarine
- 14 plain M&M's
- 5/8 cup 2% milk
- 1/4 cup 100% juice mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup grapes, quartered
- 1 hot dog (no bun), cut up
- 7 French fries
- 1/2 cup lemonade
- 1/2 cup soft-serve vanilla ice cream