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Expert Q&A

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How do I handle a toddler who wants grown-up food?

Asked by Lona McCallister, via e-mail

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How does one handle meal times with a 2-year-old who looks at what adults are eating and wants it, for example Romaine lettuce with 4-inch chunks of raw carrots? Are adults supposed to say,"We are all sitting down together at family mealtime but you can't have what we are eating"? Or give them the huge carrot and let them choke?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. It's wonderful that your child wants to eat healthy foods and try new things. When children eat the same foods as the adults, the person doing the cooking won't have to make separate meals -- a challenge many parents face if their child is a picky eater. Eating meals together as a family also has many benefits such as better nutrition for children and adults, a decreased risk for obesity, and better grades in school.

You are correct, however, that "adult"-type foods --especially those that are large, round, hard and/or slippery (think of whole grapes, for example) --can be a choking hazard in kids under age 4. Young children should stick with small, soft or easy-to-chew foods and to further avoid choking, it's best to eat at a table while sitting down and not munch while running around or playing.

For toddlers wanting to sample family meals, it may be easiest to serve foods that the entire family can enjoy. In the situation you mentioned, you could try a chopped salad with shredded carrots or consider soft toppings such as steamed vegetables, diced hard-boiled eggs or small slices of cheese. You can also cut "adult" foods into bite-size pieces and serve them on the child's own plate before she has a chance to grab bigger pieces from someone else's dinner.

I wish you the best of luck and hope your child continues to have the desire to try different foods as she gets older!

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