simple tips to help maintain healthy eating habits in toddlerhood
advice to help deepen your tot's love of healthy food
Just when you have a phase of parenting down, your kid grows into a new one. It’s nature’s way of keeping you on your game. You ate well when you were pregnant and mixed up your diet to keep your breast milk full of new flavors. You mastered first foods–and didn’t even start with white rice cereal!—and offered a colorful variety. You kept introducing textures as your baby’s teeth grew in. Or at least you did some of that. And you had a routine. But now suddenly there’s a very large person staring back at you in that high chair. A toddler! What does this giant baby want to eat? What should she eat? No need to feel intimidated. Here are some basics to help you continue to develop your child’s Nutritional Intelligence with many different tasty ingredients. Soon you’ll have this phase down, too—just in time to welcome another one.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
Good news! You don’t have to start from scratch; just keep offering lots of choices, cuisines, and colors, including different foods of the same color. Stimulating all senses—not just taste—helps toddlers deepen their love of good food.TIPS:
Let loose with texture! New teeth make crunching things like small pieces of raw carrots, whole grain crackers, and even pickles so much fun.
Share fruits and veggies of all colors you may not have gotten around to yet—from arugula to cardoons to parsnips to rutabagas.
EAT AND REPEAT.
Toddlers are notoriously picky. This standard behavior, called neophobia, sets in around when your baby becomes a young toddler, which is basically when kids start walking. It can take dozens of tries, but keep (re)introducing shunned foods and eventually kids will come (back) around. We promise.TIPS:
To make sure your picky eater is getting needed nutrients, try cooking what she will eat in chicken stock, and work veggies into smoothies.
Pickiness is frustrating, but this too shall pass. Continue to model good behavior , giving toddlers healthy habits to mirror.
PROVIDE KEY NUTRIENTS
Typically toddlers eat less than babies; their growth needs slow down. While completely normal, this means parents should make sure their toddler is receiving all the essential nutrients. Picky eaters do actually tend to get enough calories and protein, but maybe not enough fruits, veggies, or whole grains.TIPS:
Stock the fridge with superfoods! Set the family up for success.
Toddlers are constantly on the run, making snacks an important venue for good food. Refined and/or highly processed foods fill kids up without offering much nutritionally; choose wisely.
Engaging tots with food helps them trust it—especially new foods. This includes talking about food as well as involving kids in the growing, selecting, and prepping of their meals.TIPS:
Your toddler may not talk much yet, but she already understands more than 100 words! Make sure apple, banana, and orange are part of her vocabulary, not just moo, oink, and neigh.
The joy of food goes a long way in reinforcing nutritional intelligence. Take kids to the farmers’ market, out to the garden, and into the kitchen.
Gaining independence is good. But too little or too much freedom can confuse toddlers. Help them out. Instead of telling them what to eat or letting them decide entirely, offer a few healthy options. Empowering a kid to make his or her own good decision is as simple as, would you rather have an apple or a banana?TIPS:
Family meal is a great time to offer toddlers several good choices.
At a restaurant? Avoid the kids’ menu whenever possible! These tend to have few healthy choices.