NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Early Eaters and Early Habits

Early Eaters and Early Habits


The news isn’t good - our children are at risk:

 • One in four of 2- to 5-year-olds is at risk of being overweight.

 • Overweight children are 43.5 times more likely to have at least three         

    cardiovascular risk factors.

           • One in three American children born in 2000 will become diabetic       

              unless food consumption is reduced and exercise is increased

All of those life threatening situations are related to food.  Food habits begin at an early age and have lifelong implications.  

Children are most likely to learn healthy eating habits when parents, caregivers, and other influential adults eat a nutritious diet themselves. Adult role models are the single most important influence on what a child learns to eat. Toddlers especially, watch others closely and are great imitators. They develop good food habits if a variety of nutritious foods are offered in a pleasant, relaxed setting.

A child’s weight triples during the first year of growth. During year 2 a child’s weight will be quadruple their birth weight.  Toddlers’ appetites decrease due to the slower growth rate and their desire to exert their independence.

Common Eating Patterns

For a typical 1 to 2 year old, parents and caregivers can expect some of the following to happen.  There will be ample swings in behavior and growth rate as each child is unique.

• Appetite drops as growth slows

• Learns to drink from cup, usually is weaned

• May cut back to about 2 cups of milk daily

• Learns to bring food to mouth with spoon

• Likes to feed self but will likely need some help

• Copies others and will eat many family foods

• Cutting teeth and may have difficulty chewing

• Has acute taste buds and can detect slight differences in foods

• Develops likes and dislikes; likes sweet foods

• Likes to touch and play with food; responds to food texture

• Learns to say “No” and becomes more independent

For a typical 2 to 3 year old, you may look forward to some of the following experiences:

• Has much improved muscle control; can use spoon and fork easily

• Often desires and requests desserts and sweets

• Will wait a little for requests to be filled

• Usually will eat raw vegetables but may refuse salads

• Finds green vegetables more acceptable

• Can make simple either/or food choices: “Would you like a peach or pear?”

Common eating patterns for 4 to 5 year olds include:

• May return to food jags or go on food “strikes”

• Influenced by others: other children, television ads, teachers, etc.

• Likes plain cooking and foods separated on the plate

• Dislikes most mixed food dishes and gravies

• By age 5, often has fewer demands and will accept food available

• Appetite is gradually increasing


For small fingers, these small pizzas can be just the right size.


Tiny Tortilla Pizzas


Small corn tortillas


Shredded cheddar cheese


Mound a little salsa and cheese on each tortilla. Cook on foil-lined tray in toaster oven until cheese has melted and is brown at the edges.

Kids can help: Assemble the "pizzas," by covering the tray with foil.


For extra nutrition punch, try a layer of refried beans under the salsa, cilantro for garnish or a dollop of sour cream


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