How to Establish Healthy Eating Habits for Your Toddler
What are you having for dinner? Is coming up with a proper meal for you and your baby challenging?
It's no surprise that a lot of parents struggle with preparing filling food and maintaining healthy eating habits for their children. Toddlers aren't usually the most open-minded people when it comes to healthy food, new food, and strange meals. They'd go for chicken nuggets and milky chocolate anytime you offer them, but vegetables and certain fruits are an issue.
It's never anybody's fault. Children are walking dopamine-collecting machines, and eating tasty food is a great way to receive this hormone.
Of course, sweet and salty treats are okay from time to time, but sometimes they can get out of hand. As parents, we want the best for our children, and nutrition plays a vital role in their overall health and well-being.
Many toddlers go through phases of picky eating, refusing certain foods, or wanting to eat the same thing every day. Additionally, busy schedules and the prevalence of processed foods and sugary snacks can make it difficult to establish healthy eating habits.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to promote healthy eating in your children. By introducing various nutritious foods and creating a positive mealtime environment, you can help your baby develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
The ABCs of Toddler Nutrition: What You Need to Know
Before we dive in and talk about tips on introducing new foods in your toddler's diet, we need to learn the ABCs of toddler nutrition.
Childhood development experts say that toddlers need these nutrients to grow strong and healthy:
- Calcium - Helps with the development of bones, teeth, and muscles;
- Iron - Helps make new red blood cells and carry the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body;
- Vitamin D - Helps build a strong muscular system;
- Vitamin A - Improves vision, fights off viral infections, and repairs body tissues;
- Vitamin C - Boosts the immune system and fights off infections.
Here's a little visual guide to help you understand the nutritional values of different foods.
Talk to your pediatrician about the recommended daily servings for your baby. Discuss the meal schedule and how to incorporate it into your toddler's daily routine.
The recommended daily servings for toddlers vary based on age, sex, and activity level. However, the following is a general guideline for recommended daily servings for toddlers:
- Fruits: 1-1.5 cups
- Vegetables: 1-1.5 cups
- Grains: 3-5 ounces, with at least half being whole grains
- Protein: 2-4 ounces, including meat, fish, poultry, beans, and eggs
- Dairy: 2-2.5 cups, including milk, cheese, and yogurt
5 Tips on How to Introduce New Foods in Your Toddler's Diet
It's not going to be an easy task, but with a few tips, you can teach your toddler to eat healthy and new foods.
Here's what you need to do:
- Start small - Introduce small amounts of new foods at a time, and gradually increase the quantity as your toddler gets used to the taste and texture;
- Be persistent - It can take up to 10-15 tries for a child to accept new food, so don't give up after the first few attempts. Keep offering new foods regularly, and encourage your toddler to try at least one bite;
- Get creative - Present new foods in a fun and appealing way, such as cutting fruits and veggies into fun shapes or arranging them in a colorful pattern on the plate;
- Lead by example - Your baby is more likely to try new foods if they see you eating them too. You can even play a game with them and try new additions one bite at a time;
- Involve your toddler - Children love "helping around" the house. Let your toddler help with meal planning and preparation, such as choosing a new vegetable to try at the grocery store or helping to wash and chop ingredients. This can help build a sense of ownership and excitement around trying new foods.
If traditional methods don't help and your toddler still refuses to eat nutritious meals, you can use these sneaky ways:
- Make vegetable-based pasta - Children love pasta, bread, and tortillas. While some variations can be healthy, you can add more to that. Make pasta based on lentils and chickpeas, or shred carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers and make the veggies look like noodles;
- Add vegetables to the sauce - Dipping fried potatoes and chicken nuggets in a sauce is classic. You can make your sauce with veggies to sneak in some vitamins;
- Try veggie burgers - While meat can be a great source of iron and vitamin B, sometimes it's wise to try vegetarian burgers if your toddler pushes away the veggie plate. They won't know the difference visually;
- Mix vegetables in scrambled eggs - Eggs are tasty and rich in nutrients, but veggies can make them healthier.
- Mix spinach, peas, or broccoli in mac and cheese - We all love mac and cheese, but there's not a lot going on in the healthy department. You can "spice up" this dish by adding some veggies.
Establish Healthy Eating Habits
Before we say good luck on your journey, we want to give you a few more tips about establishing healthy eating habits for you and your baby.
It starts with a regular eating plan and awareness of healthy food choices.
- Start early - Introduce various healthy foods to help your toddler develop a taste for them;
- Provide foods from all food groups - Including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy products;
- Avoid restrictive or rigid eating patterns - Encourage your toddler to listen to their hunger and fullness cues, and avoid using food as a reward or punishment;
- Encourage family meals - Eating meals together as a family can help establish healthy eating habits and provide an opportunity to model healthy eating behaviors;
- Teach your baby about healthy foods - Use various methods like flashcards, reading books, playing mobile games, and more.
- Involve your toddler in meal planning and preparation - Let your toddler help with simple tasks such as choosing a vegetable at the grocery store or stirring ingredients in a bowl. This can help build excitement and ownership around healthy eating.
Ensuring that your toddler knows about healthy eating habits, can recognize healthy food, and learns to love veggies and fruits will guarantee their healthy lifestyle in adulthood.
It's an essential journey children have to go through to avoid eating disorders and other health issues.
So stack up on nutrition books and courses, read more about healthy foods, and get ready to teach your child about healthy eating habits.