“My 15-month old wants to eat snacks all the time. He always wants to eat.”

I get some variation of this comment in my inbox regularly. And, just as frequently, I receive questions about how little their child is eating. Both situations can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

No matter where on the spectrum of eating your child is, most of the time, it’s normal. Each child eats differently and it doesn’t make them better or worse. And chances are high that you will see your child swing from one end to the other. Kiddos have strange appetites when it comes to how much they eat in a day, week, or month. It’s our job as parents to trust that our kids know their appetite better than we do.

Regardless of whether you have a kiddo who is always wanting to eat or one who is more selective, here are my top concerns and tips:

1) How filling are the snacks? Only offering fruit-based snacks (pouches, fruit snacks, fruit, etc.) or simple carbohydrates like puffs, Goldfish, or crackers won’t fill up your toddler for very long. Instead, building your snack as a mini-meal or one that includes a high-calorie option in addition to the fruit or carbohydrate will help keep your little one satisfied until the next meal. High-calorie additions include foods like avocado, whole milk dairy sources, cheese, peanut butter, oils and butters.

2) Are you letting your toddler eat as much as he wants at the assigned snacks and meals? Regardless of whether it’s a lot or a little, your toddler gets to decide how much they want before they are done (even if they just want the fruit and don’t touch anything else!). There is no “right” amount to give a toddler. Some days it’ll seem like they eat more than you and other days it may seem like they haven’t eaten a thing. This is all normal and it can be easier when you go in with that expectation.

3) Set up a schedule and offer consistent meals and snacks. Rather than letting your toddler decide when they’re going to eat (or giving a snack whenever they ask for one), set up a schedule that both you and your toddler can depend on. It’s likely going to look like a morning and afternoon snack in order to help them get through until the next meal. Depending on when bedtime is, it may also mean a bedtime snack. Kiddos thrive on structure and predictability. When they know the routine, they’re less likely to keep requesting snacks throughout the day.

Of course, like anything with kids, flexibility is key. There will be days when an extra snack is necessary or when meals need to be pushed up slightly to prevent a meltdown. But keep in mind that it’s good for your kiddos to experience what it feels like to be hungry and to then feel satisfied, rather than the constant grazing on snack foods all day long. Plus, it’ll save you from feeling like the snack lady all day long.

Kara Hoerr is a wife, mom to a 2-year-old, and a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in family and childhood nutrition. She’s originally from Iowa, but has called Madison home for the past 10 years. When she’s not helping families and individuals end mealtime battles or quit diets for good, she’s usually baking or cooking in her kitchen, running or biking on the Madison trails, or relaxing with a good book. She never expected to start her own business, but here she is with Kara Hoerr Nutrition. She offers nutrition coaching and online courses to help moms (and dads!) out at the dinner table. To learn more or to set up a free discovery call, email Kara at [email protected], or find her on Instagram.

Madison Family
Madison is such a cool city. We love it around here. We live here too and our vision is to create a platform where real parents share real stories and we can all learn from one another. You will get to know real moms doing life right here in our neighborhoods and find information on a wealth of topics – local summer camps, preschools, swim lessons, shops and boutiques, events and experiences as so much more.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here