Healthy eating for toddlers.
That’s an oxymoron, right?
If you have a toddler, you most likely know exactly what I am talking about. So many of us deal with a toddler that is constantly picking up and moving food around. Then, they take the tiniest bite. After the tiniest bite (or was it a lick?) chaos ensues as if it was the hardest thing they may have done.
However, it may actually be one of the hardest things they have done. Those feelings of food aversion are real, and treating it as a real thing instead of your kid being dramatic has huge benefits. It is one of the ways to begin encouraging healthy eating for toddlers.
Is your child a picky eater?
Are you one of the parents that regularly deals with kids who whine about their food? Are you one of the parents who hear the complaints? Maybe you are the one that finds hidden veggies all over the dog that has been hiding underneath the table. Some days, it may seem like everyone else has the perfect child who loves to eat healthy food? Maybe you feel that way but you have children who go to great lengths to avoid anything that might be even remotely healthy for them. Sometimes it can feel like all these parents love encouraging healthy eating for toddlers, but your kids won’t budge.
I promise though that you are not the only one who is trying to figure out healthy eating for toddlers.
The biggest thing you need to know about kids that are picky eaters
It is okay.
The biggest takeaway is that it is okay, and it is most likely not your fault. If you are reading this, you are a parent that is trying! Noticing the issue is about half of the solution. The rest becomes easier with just a little bit of help.
Just know that you are doing right by your kids. Unfortunately, some children are just pickier than others. The fact is that you are even concerned about this topic at all shows that you care about healthy eating for toddlers. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can set even your pickiest eaters on the right path to healthy eating.
Here are four ways to encourage healthy eating for toddlers
Give healthy choices
Toddlers love choices. We used to often convince our kids to do anything by giving them two options, but just to make sure they were two options for which we approved.
For example, do not offer either spinach of a lollipop. Obviously, the kid would go for the lollipop. Wouldn’t you go to the lollipop? Instead, you can pick two healthy choices and let your child pick which one they want.
Sometimes the simplest way to encourage healthy eating for toddlers is to offer them more healthy food choices. It sounds simple enough, yet so many parents simply forget to give these healthier options to their children. Are you offering healthy snacks and breakfast, for example, and not just a healthy dinner? Here’s another one. Are you giving them different choices of veggie sides, or do you serve the same broccoli every day? Branch out and give them choices.
Let them help make the decisions
When your children feel like they have a say in what’s going on, it empowers them. No one wants to be forced to eat something they don’t want, regardless of age, but if you let your children take part in the decision-making process and allow them to choose some healthy foods of their own, they will feel like it’s their choice and not something you’re forcing them to do. It has the bonus of building healthy habits now that they will take with them into adulthood.
The best way to do this is at the grocery store. Have your child go to the fruit and veggie section and pick out the ones they want to try. Letting them help makes decisions also leads to the education of fruit and veggies. These healthy options will not seem too foreign to them if they learn all about them. Before learning all the veggies in the store, your child may lump all green food together. However, if they learn the difference between kale and kiwi, or spinach and lettuce, it could be a huge help in them agreeing to try (and like!) different foods.
Be a role model
If you want your children to eat healthily and make proper choices with their food, you need to set a good example. This doesn’t mean you can never have a snack or a treat, and it doesn’t mean you should count calories or obsess over food and weight in front of your children. Instead, it means you should make healthy choices and show them by example that it can feel good and taste good to eat the right kinds of foods. Together, you will develop wonderful healthy habits around food and this is something that will stick with your children for a long time in their lives.
Don’t give up
Even if you feel discouraged and even if it seems like your kids will just never get it, don’t give up. They say you often have to offer and try a new food 6 or 7 times or more before you can develop a taste for it and like it. Keep encouraging your children to try new things. Continue to offer healthy meals and snacks. Keep setting the right example and you will see it start to pay off.
Now that you know these four ways to encourage your kids to eat healthily, you’re on the right track. Remember that it’s not an overnight fix and while these healthy habits are best started early in life, it’s also never too late to start teaching them to eat healthily. This is one of the most important things you will ever do for your children to take the time to commit and do it correctly. They’ll thank you for it later for sure!