I am taking care of my 2-year old niece, she is very aggressive in eating. You can always find her in the kitchen whenever there's someone eating. The problem is, she ignores rice and she eats most of our dish. Usually our food is only limited for the whole family. I cannot control her with this, she'll not stop until she saw the plates emptied. How can I possibly control her in consuming most of our dish and ignoring the rice?
Thank you for your post.
I think it is a good thing that your niece has such a healthy interest in food. However, it must be difficult if you only have limited food available for the whole family. Is your niece still breastfed? At this age breastmilk can still give a toddler many important nutritional, developmental, emotional and immunity benefits.
How many months old is your niece? I ask because I am interested as to whether she is closer to 2 or 3 years old. It is important that your niece gets all her required nutrients. Whilst she is only small she is still developing and growing at an amazing rate and she needs the right intake of foods to help her do this. To be specific, a 2 year old requires:
-85g of grains a day; it is recommended that at least half of this amount comes from wholegrains i.e. unrefined grains. This is because this type of grain has more: B vitamins, fibre and iron. Is the rice you use normally wholegrain rice or refined rice? If it is refined rice then it has a much lower nutritional benefit to your niece and this may be why she isn't interested in it (young children can be surprisingly in-tune with their bodies).
-1 cup of vegetables; again important for fibre as well as potassium and vitamin C and vitamin A
- 1 cup of fruit
-2 cups of dairy: really important for Calcium. This is a major reason why your niece cannot eat majority grain-based meals (even wholegrain). This is needed for growing bones and strong teeth.
-58g of protein: again this is key as I'm sure you know. For example, it could be obtained by eating 1/4 cup of cooked beans and 30g of sliced chicken.
If you feel our niece is getting her daily nutritional requirements (as explained above) but is just being fussy with the rice then I would recommend you trying a 'graze plate'. Toddlers are very active and can feel hungry quickly. It is better for them to eat smaller meals/ healthy snacks throughout the day rather than waiting to eat with everyone else. Yes, family meal times are important too but you do not want your niece to come to them feeling really hungry (perhaps she is as you describe her eating as 'aggressive'). Instead, leave a plate of healthy snacks including all of the food groups mentioned above at a low level that she can come and go to throughout the day. Keep topping up the plate if it gets low on food and then offer her a suitable sized variety of the food you are eating at meal-times too.
I can also recommend the Doctor Sears article Feeding the Picky Eater for more tips.
Please do post back and let me know what you think.
We are here to support you,
LJ had some great suggestions above.
The fact that your niece ignores the rice is an indication to me that she may not be getting enough high quality protein and other nutrients found in fresh fruits, vegetables and quality fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. She may be eating a lot, but if her body is not able to utilize the nutrients in the foods she is eating, she will likely feel hungry and want to eat more.
Sometimes a child or a person can be conditioned to eat more, and can want to eat even when they are not hungry. In that case, it's just a matter of reconditioning the child and the people in the family so that they don't offer her food every time they have something to eat.
I would encourage you to offer high quality food throughout the day, and avoid giving your niece foods with sugar, white flour and low quality fats (deep fried foods like potato chips). Allowing a child to eat lots of crackers, cookies and biscuits may fill them up or keep them occupied for the moment, but won't give them long lasting fuel, and if the child eats too much of these, they won't get the necessary nutrients the body needs to function well.
One way to be sure your niece gets some deep green vegetables (which are high in nutrients) is to offer her green smoothies. You will need a blender for this, but a blender is a great investment if you are trying to feed a toddler vegetables. You can puree cooked vegetables and add them to chicken broth to make a nourishing soup. But one of the yummiest ways to get a child to eat more fruits and vegetables is by making a green smoothie.
Bananas are a great base for smoothies. You can even just use bananas and water. Then to get some greens into the child, add a handful of raw or frozen spinach, kale, swiss chard, or leafy green lettuce. Blend it up well. Children love to sip these either with a straw or straight from a cup. This is something you could offer your niece every day.
My favorite smoothie is fresh or frozen pineapple, fresh or frozen banana and orange juice, with a handful of greens. Yum!
Here's a video of a Grandmother who tested her green smoothie out on her 2 year old Granddaughter. Children LOVE these!
I hope this helps to give you some insight into why your niece may be asking for food and eating so often, along with some ideas on what you can serve her to be sure she is getting a wide array of nutrients.
She will just turn 2 this coming Jan.10. She's still breastfed at night when her mum went home from work. I am giving her milk in a bottle, she's consuming it but still preferring our dishes. I am also feeding her fruits and vegetables. Thanks for your suggestions, for the article and for the support LJ.
It was a nice video. Thank you for giving me great suggestions. I will try to make some for my niece, I think she'll accept it since she loves flavored drinks.
Thanks Cheska. So your niece is almost two- this means she needs around 350mg of Calcium per day. Is the milk you give her in a bottle expressed breastmilk? Or is it cows milk? It should be full fat milk at this age. The amount of Calcium your niece needs can be obtained from drinking half a pint of full fat milk each day.
Kate's advice is really great above. Your niece can eat as many vegetables as she wants in a day and lots of fruit too. Do you know if the rice you are offering is wholegrain or refined?
I am giving her cow's milk, when her mum's around, she's taking breast milk. The rice I am offering is the refined one. Yes, I'm learning a lot from you and Kate. Thanks for both of you.
You are very welcome. You may find that giving her wholegrain rice helps. Children only need 40g of refined grains a day (and it's actually still better if this is also wholegrains). Full fat cow's milk is recommended at this age. What does she eat in a typical day besides the rice which is offered and the milk? That's great that she is still getting breastmilk.
Happy Christmas to you and your family.