Toddler Eating Habits: A Few Golden Rules

January 24, 2016

Young children are far more interested in cruising around and exploring their world than sitting still to eat it. Most children at this age become selective about what they eat so this is a prime time to introduce healthy eating habits.

Make healthy meals and snacks

What should you serve? Focus on lean beef and poultry, fish, reduced-fat dairy foods, brightly colored vegetables and fruits, and whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals. Don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t eat from every food group at every meal. As long as his diet is balanced overall, he’s doing fine.

Take your cues from your toddler

It’s important to recognise that young children have a pretty good handle on when they need to eat and when they don’t. Some days your child will eat like a horse other days they will eat nothing. You don’t need to worry about regulating his every bite. In fact, you’ll be doing your toddler a big favor by not insisting he eats when he’s not hungry. Part of teaching your toddler healthy eating habits is helping him to recognise when he feels hungry and when he feels full. Continue to offer your child regular meals and snacks, but if he decides to pass, let him. You can offer another healthy snack later. If your child consistently doesn’t finish what’s on his plate, try scaling back the portions and letting him ask for more if he wants it. And rest assured that if your toddler is growing well, you can feel confident that he is on track.

Be a good role model

Toddlers want to do what they see us doing. So if your toddler sees you eating fish and chicken, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried and junky foods, he’s much more likely to follow your lead. Plus, you’ll have a tough time explaining why Mommy can eat cookies for dinner while the they have to eat vegetables.

Have family meals

This is a great way to model healthy eating habits for your toddler and also teach the lesson that meals are about more than just food; they’re about turning off the TV, putting away the Nintendo Wii, and connecting with family and friends. Plus, studies have found that children who have regular family meals, eat more produce and whole grains (and less junk food) than other children who don’t have family mealtimes. If dinnertime is too hectic because you have older children involved in after-school activities, find another time that works, like a Sunday brunch.

Watch the milk and juice intake

Of course, these are healthy parts of a toddler’s diet. However when children drink more than 16 to 24 ounces of milk and more than six ounces of juice a day, that can fill them up so they’re not hungry for other nutritious food. Guard against this problem by offering your little one plenty of water or even diluted juice (this will cut the calories and sugar in the juice and make it last longer).

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