We have heard it all about healthy eating with & for toddlers. From the dreaded Peanut Butter Cup Cake that may have a little peanut butter on it to the seemingly delicious sounding Sloppy Joe. And trust me, I’ve seen it all. From the funny looking Happy Meals in the supermarket that is actually a slab of salt and sugar, to the seemingly healthy looking Pizza hut menu. So is there really any difference?
There really is a difference. And it doesn’t have to be long term. In fact, by starting now, you can start working on turning your toddler into a lifetime healthy eater. And that starts with making the right choices. Healthy food is not just for dinner. It’s not even just for lunch.
Your toddler has yet to reach his full growth milestone, which means that he hasn’t developed the ability to make good food choices yet. As a result, you have the opportunity, as a parent, to start shaping his eating habits before he even gets to pick up a fork. It begins with making healthy food choices. You can start this by choosing healthier options at the grocery store.
Toddlers love convenience. And I’m sure that you, as a parent, are anything but reluctant to give your toddler things that he can munch, snack, and play with from before. That said, don’t be too quick to limit your child’s access to good, wholesome food. After all, that’s what playmates are for. Children can become great, helpful friends if they see that you take the time to offer them nutritious foods. But they will also help to develop better eating habits if you take the time to teach them healthy habits at home.
The best place to start is with your toddler’s favorite food choices. Ask him about the dishes he likes the most. Pay attention to his eye contact as he talks. If a toddler is excited or curious, he will likely talk about what he’s interested in. Be careful, though, not to make him sound like a robot.
You should also take note of how often your toddler eats out at restaurants. Sometimes, it is a good idea to introduce him to “regular” foods. Go shopping with your toddler and have him tag along. You can also buy him honey and fruit juice as gifts, so that he gets the vitamins he needs without becoming too accustomed to them.
If you have some ready-to-eat meals at home, serve them during toddler parties. Your child will enjoy gathering around the table with his peers to discuss and plan their next meal. Even the sweetest of toddlers can appreciate a tasty treat sometimes. If you do not want to start the party early, wait until dinner time. When your toddler is hungry, he will be less picky about what he eats.
As with many things in life, moderation is key with & when it comes to toddler’s food intake. If you feel uncomfortable about giving in to your toddler’s every desire, consider consulting a doctor first. Your doctor can help you design an appropriate eating schedule and show you which foods are safe for your toddler’s age and which may cause potential health problems down the road.
One thing to remember about toddlers is that they tend to eat just because they are hungry. They are constantly looking for something to eat even when they are not really hungry. To help avoid future dental problems, make sure to teach your toddler good oral hygiene habits. Teach him good hand and eye coordination by offering him small, simple jobs such as brushing his teeth or blowing his nose. In general, young toddlers are very clean, so teaching them a few simple mouthwash and basic hand and eye coordination can help ward off sickness and tooth decay in the future.
Be wary of toddler fads such as “bananas good for you” or “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” (not true!). Stick with tried-and-true favorites such as lasagna, mashed potatoes and homemade pizza. Keep a food diary to track what your child consumes over a given week and make sure he has plenty to eat. Also, introduce him to new foods from different food groups as he gets older. Remember to keep it simple, so that he doesn’t get bored and pick an entirely different food every day.
All kids need some variety in their daily meals. If your toddler is hungry, feed him food from the plate. If he has had enough of the plate, offer him something from the cup. It’s important to make sure you give your toddler variety. Healthy eating with & for toddlers is about finding the best balance between sugary, high-calorie junk food and healthy, but low calorie, but flavorful, fresh foods.