Nicole Yontz is a stay at home mom in Arizona, a contributing parenting writer for and a personal blogger at

Because I have a toddler there are certain things I tend to say day after day. Usually it’s along the lines of “don’t use the dog as a napkin” and “please keep your clothes on.” But the one that frustrates me the most is “Will you PLEASE finish your food?!” I can’t tell you how many times a day I say that one sentence; it’s to the point where I absolutely dread meal time because of the subsequent battle ahead. Why can’t you just eat?!

My daily struggle with getting my daughter to eat got me thinking; Exactly how many calories does she really need in a sitting? Am I over feeding her? Is she just being picky or is she actually just full? As adults, we have it down exactly how much we can (and should) eat at a time but how can we be so sure for them? When Audrey first started eating solids, I would make her a plate and have to fight the urge to think, “That would never be enough for me” giving her more, and remember that it wasn’t for me…it was for someone 1/5 my weight and size.

According to, the average 2-3 year old needs between 1000-1400 calories a day depending on their size and activity level. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats should make up the majority of their intake, with sugar being at the minimum. Although sugar is full of calories, it is very low in nutrients. Foods that should be a huge part of your child’s diet are breads and grains, avocados, eggs, cheese, lean meats, and full fat milk.

Now if you’re like me and your child is like mine, you’re thinking, “How nutritious are dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac&Cheese because that’s all I can get my kids to eat.” As much as I would like to (honestly) say to you that my child eats a healthy and well-balanced meal three times a day, it’s just not true. Sometimes it’s a frozen waffle in the car and I’m grateful she’s even eaten that much.

To make up for the lack in some places, I will over-compensate in others. For example, I know my kid loves avocado and I also know how good it is for her. So if she wants to eat an entire avocado for breakfast, so be it. She’s also a big milk drinker so I make sure we only have full fat organic milk in the house, same goes for cheese and eggs. (I will skimp in certain parts of my grocery budget to ensure that we have organic milk and eggs. The two things I know my daughter eats the most.) Home made milk shakes made with berries, orange juice and yogurt are a great way to sneak in some good healthy calories disguised as a treat.

Need more ideas? Check out these Healthy Kid Meal Makeovers at

The little things that I do to pack in the extra good calories may not seem like much but when you have a tiny caloric budget, a little goes a long way. And don’t forget to get your child in the habit of taking a children’s vitamin every day!

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