What should a 2-year-old be eating?
April 12, 2006 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Should I be worried that my height-weight proportional 2-year-old daughter isn't eating her vegetables, doesn't eat a lot of meat, and strongly prefers fruit?

The last couple of weeks or so, my 2-year-old's daycare worker has been complaining to us because our daughter strongly prefers fruit over everything else they serve her at lunch. I really don't think this is a problem -- she's still above average for both her height and weight. But the daycare worker keeps persisting in telling us every time we pick her up or drop her off that we *must* stop giving her fruit.

It's to the point that if it weren't for the really long waitlists in our area for daycare spots we would be pulling her out. It's really annoying to hear how your daughter would only eat fruit and not the broccoli *every single day*.

She's healthy. She's a nice weight and one of the tallest kids her age. She eats yogurt, cheese, bread, some meats, fruit, rice, and beans. The only junk food she ever gets is the occasional potato chip. I've seen her consume two bananas at one sitting.

What's the problem here? Is it in the daycare worker's head, or is there some nutritional science justification for it?
posted by dw to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Let her eat fruit!

I would ignore them the best you can, or even tell them to stop telling you about it. Because that's ludicrous.
posted by agregoli at 1:36 PM on April 12, 2006

I'm not a parent or nutritionist but I can tell you that I didn't eat a single vegetable (except potatoes) until I was in my teens, but I did eat a LOT of fruit. And here I am at 28, perfectly healthy, average weight, etc etc.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2006

Has the daycare worker never noticed that 2-year-olds are the world's weirdest/pickiest eaters? It sounds like your daughter's eating perfectly well (in fact, she sounds a lot less picky than half the 2-year-olds on the planet), and is just going through a no veggies phase. Each of my nephews -- heck, every toddler I've ever known -- has done exactly the same thing. (My 3-year-old nephew pretty much lives on chicken nuggets, milk, yogurt, and fruit).
posted by scody at 1:40 PM on April 12, 2006

Children at that age do this. In a couple of week's time, it'll be spaghetti only. Or oatmeal only. Both of my kids went through periods like this where they were voracious fruit eaters.

Assuming the daycare outfit offers a nice square meal, I'm suspect once your daughter's tastes change it will be another part of the meal entirely.

I think your daycare person is just being cautious. The daycare worker is probably off-base suggesting that you withhold fruit at home. Chances are if you did that, your daughter would hone in on it even more strongly at daycare!
posted by majick at 1:40 PM on April 12, 2006

Fruit is very healthy, by and large. As long as your daughter is eating a bit of other things there's absolutely no reason not to accept or even encourage this diet.

There's ample evidence that many early humans ate fruit as a majority of their diet. There's also a small group of people who eat only fruit and nuts-fruitarians. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruitarian
posted by 1024x768 at 1:45 PM on April 12, 2006

The real problem is that the daycare person is anxious about your daughter's eating and probably mentions it (anxiously) to you daughter every day at lunchtime. The woman might also be worried that other kids will try the fruit-only diet, and then their parents will get after her... It's good that she's conscientious, but yeah -- it's got to be getting on your nerves.

I say, make it easier for this lady to calm down. Tell her firmly that you've given it due consideration (and that you've consulted a pediatrician, if you want further authority). You believe her diet as a whole is healthy, and she's eating just the way she should be. If the woman is bummed about other kids sliding down the slippery slope of fruit-for-lunch, that's beyond your purview.

If she brings it up again, you might have to ask her explicitly not to nag your daughter about it.
posted by wryly at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all! I'll see if I can talk to the daycare worker about taking it down a notch with the worrying.

And why did I ask random people rather than her pede? Because in 30 minutes I got a reasonable consensus out of the group. It usually takes my pede a couple of hours to call us back on non-sick-kid questions.
posted by dw at 2:15 PM on April 12, 2006

Concur with respectfully telling the day care person to pipe down. No need to withhold fruit at home, for pete's sake. Oh, that more people gave their kids all the apples, oranges, and grapes they wanted and held back on the soda and candy bars...
posted by desuetude at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2006

All I know if if my daughters eat too much fruit, they get the squirts. It's referred as the 'two plum' rule based on our experience when one daughter ate 5 plums in an afternoon and nearly exploded.
posted by Argyle at 2:28 PM on April 12, 2006

I had to chuckle when I read your post - I can't imagine a daycare worker complaining because a kid is eating too much fruit - unless of course your child has chronic diarhhea from the fruit and the daycare worker is sick of changing diapers.

I can't tell you how many kids my kids grew up with that ate nothing but crap (including candy, soda, etc.) and grew up just fine (maybe with a few cavities). Invoking the doctor's name and saying something like "My doctor says that it's just fine, but I REALLY appreciate your concern" should shut him/her up.
posted by Flakypastry at 2:38 PM on April 12, 2006

As already noted, most kids go through spurts of foods that they will eat. Right now my toddler prefers meat, with occasional salad, and fruit. My doctor told me that as long as they balance out over the long term (a week or so) not to worry about them going on jags.

As an ex-daycare worker, I know that we had to serve specific types of food each day for meals and snacks. For instance, if we had fruit and cheese in the morning, we had to have milk and grains and vegitables in the afternoon. I think the key thing is that your child is offered different types of food and if she turns it down, that is ok (or at least it should be.)

You might try seeing if she will eat vegitables dipped in Rrnch dressing or other dressing. Or if she prefers her vegis cooked, (which may be a hassle for the daycare, but you could ask.)

Otherwise, tell them that you are ensuring that she eats a balanced diet, and if possible, ask for a menu so that you can fill in any gaps at home. (Even if you don't!) I worked with some women who never had their own children, and they made a huge deal out of drinking the milk or eating the food, so I understand and you have my sympathy.

Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2006

Little kids often don't like vegetables because they're especially sensitive to bitter flavors, says this story from Psychology Today. Vegetables — like broccoli — that taste fine to adults taste sometimes very, very bad to little ones. It's normal.
posted by bisesi at 3:45 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

My 2-year-old daughter has the same eating habits, though she prefers non-green fruit except for kiwi (very particular!). We're not sweating it - just making sure she gets some protein and fat here and there (milk/soy/cheese) and some carbs (which isn't a problem, since she's still completely hyper about Cheerios). Our pediatrician didn't think it was cause for concern.
posted by aberrant at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2006

Fruit is a bloody excellent snack food, and if your kiddie is eating that in preference to junk, more power to her.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 PM on April 12, 2006

Betcha a dollar that the REAL reason the daycare worker is worried about this is the diaper situation. I have friends who restricted their toddlers' fruit intake bc they got sick of the poop. I let my toddler eat as much fruit as he wanted and just lived with the incessant diaper changes.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:41 PM on April 12, 2006

She sounds fine. It's great that she's eating fruit at such a tender age. Another personal tale - I basically hated food when I was a kid. Until I was 16 I hardly ate, and when I did it was breakfast cereal, bread and honey, bread and marmalade, chips (British style - fries, you know), very occasional pieces of fish (fried, in batter), beans on toast... aaaand that was basically it. Everything else I picked at or was forced to eat and promptly threw up. Then at age 16 a colossal appetite hit me like a truck. I still didn't really eat enough veggies until I was well into my twenties. And even to this day I rarely eat fruit. It bores me. And I'm 46 and healthy.

Kids are picky, but most of them tend to get what they need one way or another.
posted by Decani at 5:47 PM on April 12, 2006

She's a monkey!

The only warning I can give you is that sometimes a prolonged diet of fruit and nothing else can lead to tooth trouble for kids. But that's more a warning about fruit juice than fruit.
posted by klangklangston at 5:59 PM on April 12, 2006

IANAD but when I was a poor graduate student I volunteered for nutrition experiements for cash and food. My experimenter-- a graduate student in nutrition-- told me that if you took away junk food alternatives, kids were actually pretty good at finding what they need. As I said, I am not a doctor. But as an adult, fruit seems to be one of the better things you can eat. If I were you, I'd ask my pediatrition next time I saw him or her, but I sure wouldn't lose sleep over what seems to be very health eating habits. And I say this as someone who loves meat and vegetables.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:56 PM on April 12, 2006

years ago in the doctor's office i read a poster about kids and fruit. it taught you how imperative it was to introduce your kid to vegetables prior to fruits, or else they'd only want to eat the sugarsugartreat fruits and never any vegetables. i feel like the view of 'fruits are great and healthy!!!' is influenced by the fact that these days we don't eat anything but coca-cola popsicles and deep-fried milky ways, but it is entirely possible that not eating vegetables could make her miss out on important nutrients.

on the other hand, she sounds like she's eating fine outside of daycare, and we all know those centers just serve canned poison.
posted by soma lkzx at 7:10 PM on April 12, 2006

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