If you have ever spent any time in the company of a toddler, then you know they can be very picky about what they eat. Encouraging healthy eating when your child is young helps foster healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Even the pickiest eaters can be tempted with healthy food choices -just don’t be surprised if they want the same snack for days in a row!
The best thing you can do to encourage your toddler to eat a healthy diet is to offer a wide range of choices. Toddlers tend to be very fickle- and just because they refused a particular food today, doesn’t mean they won’t absolutely love it when you offer it next week. When your toddler is used to the flavors and textures of things like vegetables and naturally sweet foods like fruit, they will turn to these items first when they are hungry, instead of filling up on greasy chips or candy.
One of the best ways to encourage your toddler to eat a healthy diet is to do so yourself. It is hard to convince a child of any age to eat apples and grapes if you fill your own diet with fast food and sweets. Children are natural born mimics, and they to be just like their parents and the “big kids” in the family. Toddlers want to eat what they see the rest of the family enjoying, so take the opportunity to set a great example, and let your toddler watch you enjoy a healthy variety of snacks.
When you are choosing snacks for your toddler, try to avoid anything containing refined sugar. Stick to things like applesauce, yogurts, and diced fresh fruits. Babies are not born with a need for sugary snacks, but can quickly develop the taste for refined sugar as they get older. Fresh fruits have the ability to meet that sweet craving without having the harmful effects of large amounts of refined sugar.
Fruits also provide your little one with a daily dose of vitamins and fiber as well.
Look for snacks that provide some calcium, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low fat cheese and calcium fortified juices. As your child grows from an infant to a toddler they need lots of calcium to ensure healthy bones and growth. Consider offering real ice cream or frozen yogurt in place of sugary popsicles or frozen treats, both of these items are rich in calcium, and have some protein as well.
Toddlers also need a good supply of iron to be healthy, so consider serving snacks or meals rich in iron. You can add broccoli to macaroni and cheese, or sneak some iron rich meats into pizza sauce. Don’t forget beans, dried fruits and iron-fortified cereals-you can serve these on their own, or use as ingredients for making other foods.
In a hurry? Forget fast food–there are some great prepackaged products that offer completely organic options for your child. While these may e a little more expensive, they do ensure that your child gets the nutrients they need. You can combine these premade items with fresh fruit and milk for a well rounded but quickly made meal.
By planning ahead and knowing what nutrients your child needs most, you can be sure that your toddler is eating a well rounded, healthy diet.