How do I know my toddler’s had enough to eat?

Sweet potato

Toddlers’ appetites can be up and down: some days you feel like they’ll never stop eating and others you start to worry they’ve hardly had a thing. It’s reeeally important to trust your little kid’s appetite and let them tell you when they’ve had enough! We'll explain why and give you tips on how to tell when your toddler is full.

Trust their appetite

You decide what, where and when they eat while toddlers decide whether and how much they eat as well as when to stop eating.

When it comes to eating, there’s a clever approach called the Division of Responsibility, invented by Ellyn Satter. It’s up to you to create an eating routine with regular meals and snacks at set times that offer variety and balance and it’s up to your toddler to decide whether they want to eat what’s on offer and how much to eat.

Sounds simple, right? But it means you have to really trust that your little one knows their appetite, which they do! Sometimes they’re feeling unwell or teething and they won’t eat much but they’ll make up for it later.

The more variety you offer and the more relaxed you are around food, while showing you’re eating reasonably healthily yourself (and no one is perfect!) the more likely it is your little one will develop a healthy relationship with food.

How to tell if your toddler is full

At mealtimes, if your toddler is getting restless, pushing food away, dropping or throwing food, saying “no,” a lot, crying or trying to get out of their chair, then it’s time to get them to check in with their tummy + see if it feels full. This helps them to understand hunger and fullness. You can do it when your toddler says they are hungry too, especially if they’ve only recently eaten and so may not be truly experiencing hunger.

Grab a teddy and ask if its tummy feels full up or empty or just about right. If, on one day, your toddler eats a lot of food and feels uncomfortable, remind them that this is how feeling reeeally full feels. It’s a great way to get your little one to understand and respond to their appetite.

Remember, none of this is easy! It’s natural to worry that your toddler isn’t eating enough or is eating too much but trust them and yourself and you’ll do just fine!ok1

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Claire Baseley

Infant nutritionist / Makes Ella's Good