Giving your toddler a healthy diet needn’t be mission impossible – even if he or she is a fussy eater. Follow these tips to encourage good eating habits for your child.
1. Set a good example
Make sure you’re giving your toddler the right messages. Your own eating habits, as well as your attitude to food, should be healthy. Try to have family meals as often as possible and give your toddler the same food as everyone else is eating when you can. Remember though, it’s important not to give your toddler food containing too much salt or sugar, and its probably best to avoid spicy foods as well.
2. Watch that shopping list!
Only buy the foods you want your toddler to eat – if there’s something in particular you don’t want your child to have, don’t put it in your shopping trolley. Try to make sure that any other carers - grandparents or childminders - know not to give him the foods you specify.
3. Keep calm...
Your toddler will quickly learn that refusing to eat can easily wind you up, so try to keep calm and not make food a big issue. Create a relaxing atmosphere for all the family at mealtimes. You could play soft music - or even some of your toddler’s favourite nursery rhymes - in the background.
4. Make meals a family affair
Try to see mealtimes as quality time for all the family. Meals should not be rushed, so leave plenty of time for them. Encourage conversation - even your baby’s babble. It can help to take your toddler’s mind off food that is normally refused. If your toddler feels part of it all, he or she will be less likely to play with food.
5. Avoid mealtime battles
If your toddler becomes upset and aggravated, he or she certainly won’t want to eat well. So if food is rejected, don’t force your little one to eat it - calmly take the plate away. Try not to give your child a large plateful of food as this ma be seem as just too off-putting - too much of an ordeal. Instead, offer a small portion and give lots of praise and encouragement if even a little is eaten.
6. Offer non-edible rewards
Try to avoid using sweet foods as a reward for finishing savouries. To your toddler, this simply says, ‘here’s something nice after eating those nasty greens’ - and is likely to make sweet foods seem even more attractive to eat. Instead, reward your child with a trip to the park or allow him or her to watch a favourite video. You’ll be amazed how well this works and the positive way your toddler come to view eating chose healthy green foods.
7. Keep snacks healthy
Limit snacking - the fill up your toddler… If you do allow a small snack, try healthy options rather than biscuits s or crisps. For example: a drink of milk and a small cracker with a slice of cheese; a plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it; a slice of toast with yeast extract, a piece of cheese or a slice of ham; some crackers, a breadstick or rice cake with cheese or a piece of fruit. Drinks can also be tummy-fillers, so make sure our toddler doesn’t have a drink just before mealtimes. All in all, if you stick to your guns and keep snacks healthy, mealtimes will be better.
8. Jazz up those veggies
When most parents think of vegetables and their toddler, they tend to think of battles! Don’t let vegetables become a burden or a battle-ground – if your toddler is reluctant to eat them, try cutting them into different fun shapes. Use vegetables to add colour to meals and keep the portions you serve small. Introduce lots of different vegetables and if one is refused a particular day, simply leave it for a few days before offering it again. You may be surprised...
9. Spot hidden sugar
There’s no denying that it can be hard to completely avoid giving your toddler sweet food and drinks. Many supposedly healthy foods, such as breakfast cereals, contain lots of sugar, and fruit squashes often have a high sugar content. Try giving your toddler cereals that aren’t sugar-coated and avoid squashes, offering water, milk or diluted fruit juices instead. If your toddler isn’t given the opportunity to get used to the taste of sugar, he or she will be less likely to crave it.
10. Home and away - stay in the habit!
Explain to well-meaning friends and family that although giving sweets to your toddler might he the easiest way, it’s not the best way. This may not be easy, but it’s important to he firm. If friends and relatives want to give your child a treat, try suggesting books, pencils or a little pocket money. If you are going out for a family meal, pick a restaurant that offers healthy choices for your toddler - the good eating habits you establish don’t have to stop when eating out.